FFP MPs urged to join 'new home' in worst case

FFP MPs urged to join 'new home' in worst case

Party chiefs make public 'closing statement' ahead of key charter court ruling on Tuesday

Supporters join the Future is Now event at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campaus on Saturday. (Screenshot from Future Forward Party video)
Supporters join the Future is Now event at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campaus on Saturday. (Screenshot from Future Forward Party video)

Future Forward Party MPs have been urged to go to a “new home” if the Constitutional Court disbands it in a ruling on Tuesday

The ruling relates to a case filed last year by Natthaporn Toprayoon, a lawyer and former adviser to the Ombudsman. He accused Future Forward of acting in defiance of democracy with the king as head of state in violation of Section 49 of the Constitution.

The penalty under the section is for the court to order the offender to stop such actions. However, the petitioner asked the court to also disband the party.

FFP secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul on Saturday urged its MPs to move to a new party “with the same ideology” as that of FFP, while asking its 60,000 members nationwide to continue to support it.

“The only thing we can do at this point is to make the ammunition called party dissolution blank,” he said.

He did not elaborate on whether the party he had in mind is a new or existing one that already has a few members. 

Speculation about a major move mounted this week after Democrat heavyweight Korn Chatikavanij quit the country’s oldest political party and said he intended to set up a new reform-minded party. Political observers see it as a possible destination for the more progressive FFP legislators.

The Constitutional Court has not allowed Future Forward to give a statement in connection with the case now before it, saying it already had everything it needed. 

Consequently, the party on Saturday delivered what Mr Piyabutr called an “out-of-court” closing statement at an event called “Future is Now”, held at Thammasat University.

At the event, party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit proposed what he coined “Thailand’s blueprint” but did not touch on the possibility of dissolution in his one-hour speech.

He wrote earlier on Facebook that it could be his last public speech as leader of a political party.

Mr Thanathorn was disqualified as an MP in a media shareholding case in November. He could face a ban from politics for 20 years once the Election Commission (EC) takes further action.

His talk on Saturday touched on new ways to improve the economy, plan and manage the central budget and develop human resources. He ended by saying that all of these reforms could not happen without a "political blueprint".

Mr Piyabutr followed with remarks about the petition on which the Constitutional Court will rule on Tuesday.

He argued that several issues raised by Mr Natthaporn involved his lectures and academic work and articles that Mr Thanathorn had written before the party was even set up. 

“They have nothing to do with the party. Besides, the EC endorsed the party’s registration, and we fielded candidates in a poll and won 6.3 million votes. How could this be toppling of the ruling system?” he asked rhetorically.

He claimed that dictatorial elements and ultraroyalists wanted to freeze society the way it is now in order to maintain their grip on power. They identify FFP’s leadership as a threat by painting them as enemies of the state, he said.

Mr Natthaporn's petition also linked the FFP to the Illuminati, a mythical group that conspiracy theorists believe pulls strings on behalf of shadowy forces all over the world.

Mr Piyabutr denied accusations that he, Mr Thanathorn and the party were “anti-royalists”.

“We’re not anti-royalists. We want to reform and develop democracy with the king as head of state so that democracy can protect the high institution sustainably and securely,” he said.

Mr Piyabutr and Mr Thanathorn then discussed other subjects in an interview session conducted by veteran journalist Suthichai Yoon.

Mr Thanathorn was asked why some critics had branded him and others like him as chung chart or nation-haters. He replied that he did what he had done because he had good intentions for the country, by which he meant “people”.

Asked about accusations that link the party to lom chao or toppling the monarchy, he said these came from groups seeking to create rifts in society by demonising others.

“Corruption charges don’t work with us so they are left with the only charge — lom chao,” he said, adding that dictatorship could exist without democracy only when there was some legitimacy.

Discussing the party’s pledge to bring back the ideology of Khana Rasadon, the movement that overthrew absolute monarchy in 1932, Mr Piyabutr said Khana Rassadon’s ideology was not republican. 

Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) pointed out on Facebook on Saturday that the Constitutional Court has no authority to disband a party based on a petition by an individual. Such a request has to come from the Election Commission, which is empowered to do so under the Political Parties Act.

The EC has already submitted a case, which the charter court has accepted, related to what it claims is an illegal loan made by the Future Forward leader to the party. Leaked documents recently indicated that two EC panels recommended the case be dropped, but another subcommittee was formed to push it forward.

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