Thailand Election Body To Dissolve The Move Forward Party: Thailand Democracy Directs To “Backward”

Thailand’s electoral regulatory authority is on the verge of dissolving the Move Forward Party, despite the party’s success in the recent general election, raising concerns about the country’s democracy. The Move Forward Party, recognized for its commitment to democracy, progressive center-left agenda, and initiatives to reduce military influence in Thai politics, appears to be facing retaliation from the staunchly loyal election authority. Despite securing the most seats in the House of Representatives with 151 seats and 36.23 percent of the vote in the 2023 general election, the party has been barred from assuming power.

On Tuesday, the Election Commission announced that it had conducted a thorough investigation into the court’s ruling against the Move Forward Party, which found the party’s attempts to amend lese majeste laws is unconstitutional. Subsequently, the Commission decided to proceed with the dissolution of the party. The Move Forward Party is accused by the Election Commission of undermining the democratic system, which recognizes the monarchy as the head of state, supported by compelling evidence. Additionally, Pita, along with other leaders, has become entangled in multiple legal cases. 

The dissolution of political entities opposing the lese majeste law and military control over administration is a recurring issue in Thai politics. The Move Forward Party vehemently opposes the lasting effects of the military dictatorship, which governed Thailand from 2014 to 2019. If the party is disbanded, its leaders will face a ten-year ban from engaging in politics.

Parit Wacharasindhu, a spokesperson for Move Forward, stated that the party’s legal team would “try their best until the last second to prevent the party from being dissolved.” He emphasized that proving the party’s innocence would also help “establish a proper standard for Thai politics in the future.”

Initially founded in 2014 as the Ruam Pattana Chart Thai Party, the Move Forward Party underwent several name changes. However, in 2020, it adopted its current name after emerging as the de facto successor to the dissolved Future Forward Party. In early 2020, following the dissolution of the Future Forward Party by a controversial Constitutional Court order, the Move Forward Party effectively took its place. Fifty-five of Future Forward’s 65 MPs, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, expressed their intention to join the Move Forward Party, pledging to uphold the progressive and anti-junta agenda of their former party. Subsequently, the party’s name was changed to Move Forward, accompanied by the introduction of a new logo resembling that of Future Forward. Now, facing a threat of dissolution once more, the Move Forward Party anticipates a more stringent response from the authorities, given their apparent intolerance towards any party capable of garnering public support and securing a majority of seats in public elections, despite efforts to manipulate the electoral process.

The Move Forward Party’s campaign to repeal the lese majeste law reflects a long-standing desire among the people. Since the protests sparked by the denial of power to the Move Forward Party, over 260 individuals, including children, have faced prosecution under this law. Widely criticized by human rights organizations, the lese majeste law is seen as a tool to suppress dissent and wield political influence. Its broad interpretation allows cases to be filed by anyone. For instance, last year, a man received a reduced two-year sentence for selling satirical calendars featuring cartoon rubber ducks deemed defamatory to the king. Similarly, in 2022, an activist was sentenced to two years for wearing fancy dress deemed to mock the queen. Both are currently on bail while appealing their convictions. Notably, in January, a man was handed a 50-year prison sentence for criticizing the monarchy on Facebook – marking the longest sentence for such an offense, as reported by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

The Move Forward Party has chosen not to openly criticize the monarchy or the prevailing political structure, fearing potential dissolution. Instead, the party has consistently opposed undemocratic practices. While refuting allegations of seeking to overthrow the current system led by the king, they advocate against the lese majeste law. Their aim is to prevent the monarchy from intervening in politics and to better reflect the public opinion. Conversely, conservatives staunchly resist any attempts to modify the law. Last year, military-appointed senators, empowered to appoint the next president, used Move Forward’s reform calls as a basis to block them from assuming office. 

We can’t predict the verdict of constitutional approval of Banning the political party, but it’s clear, the banning of the Move forward Party and continuing cruel Lese Majesty law is definitely a shame for Thailand and Democracy.