Court rejects Future Forward Party's plea for public trial

Court rejects Future Forward Party's plea for public trial

The Constitutional Court has dismissed the Future Forward Party's request for an open hearing in the party's loan case. (Bangkok Post file photo)
The Constitutional Court has dismissed the Future Forward Party's request for an open hearing in the party's loan case. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Constitutional Court has rejected the Future Forward Party's request that its loan case to be heard in open court, but agreed to extend the deadline for submitting witness statements until Monday.

The court on Thursday rejected the FFP's petition for an open session for witness testimony.

The case stems from the Election Commission's accusation that the FFP violated the organic law on political parties by accepting a 191.2-million-baht loan from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to finance last year's election campaign.

The EC cited Section 72 of the law, which prohibits parties and their executives from accepting cash donations, assets or other benefits when they know or suspect the money comes from an illegitimate source. The EC considers the loan illegitimate, citing Sections 62 and 66 of the law on political parties.

Section 62 provides details on the legal income sources available to parties. The section allows parties to conduct fundraisers or receive donations, but it does not include loans as a legitimate financial source.

Section 66 of the law bars any individual from donating money or assets to parties in excess of 10 million baht within a one-year period.

The FFP insisted the Constitutional Court allowed the party too little time to get its defence witnesses to the stand.  

The FFP named 17 people on its witness list, but said it could call only four of them to testify. They are Mr Thanathorn, party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the party's treasurer and its legal specialist.

The remaining 13 were non-party members who required a court order summonsing them to testify in the party’s defence.

They include members of an Election Commission sub-panel which determined there was nothing wrong with the party's loan.

The court earlier gave the party until Wednesday to present its defence witnesses. On Thursday, the court granted a deadline extension until Monday.

The ruling in the case is set for Feb 21. 

On Thursday, Mr Thanathorn said that since the case involved accounting practices that follow exacting standards, he expected the court's deliberation would not involve a broad-ranging interpretation of the law.

"Accountancy is straightforward. It leaves no room for leeway," he said. 

Mr Thanathorn said those who know how the FFP operates would realise he could not be accused of using the loan to dominate the party. He added he was under the impression that the court had not studied how the FFP works.

The FFP leader said he would take the election commissioners to court for allegedly abusing their authority in forwarding the loan case to the Constitutional Court without laying charges against him first.

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