Thai opposition party maintains innocence ahead of dissolution ruling


  • ASEAN+
  • Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (right), leader of the opposition Future Forward party, gestures with the party's secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul (left) at the party's headquarters in Bangkok. The party said there were no laws forbidding political parties from receiving loans and that the loan had been conducted transparently. - AFP

BANGKOK: A Thai opposition political party has said it did not break any laws as it faces a court ruling over whether it should be disbanded for receiving a loan deemed illegal.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the opposition Future Forward Party, said on Tuesday (Feb 18) that there were no laws forbidding political parties from receiving loans and that the loan had been conducted transparently.

"There was a clear declaration and clear loan contract because we hoped to raise standards and be transparent," Piyabutr said.

Thailand's Election Commission ruled in November that a 191-million-baht (US$6.1mil) loan the Future Forward Party received from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was illegal.

The commission also recommended that the party be disbanded by the Constitutional Court. The court will issue its ruling on Friday.

Piyabutr, a legal scholar, said the party chose to take a loan from its leader rather than raise funds by what it said were questionable methods, such as organizing gala dinners.

The ruling military-aligned party had reportedly raised around 600 million baht (19.2 million dollars) in donations from private companies in one gala dinner before an election in March last year.

Thailand has been ruled by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha since he led a coup in 2014 to overthrow an elected government.

He retained his seat as prime minister after the election was held under new election rules that his own junta introduced.

The Election Commission that is seeking to end the Future Forward Party was appointed by Prayut's military government.

The Thai courts have a history of ruling in favour of the conservative establishment, which includes the military.

The new Future Forward Party is outspoken in its disdain for military rule.

The party finished a strong third in the latest election and its popularity, particularly among the country's young voters, has irked the ruling military-aligned government.

Party leader Thanathorn was disqualified from parliament by the Constitutional Court in November on claims that he violated election laws by holding media shares while running for an election.

Thanathorn and other party members, similar to many outspoken Thai political activists, also face a number of charges against them, some of them criminal.

"Thailand has in the past tried to remove and force out people with progressive ideas who want to change the country, like this, many times before," Piyabutr said. "Nothing good ever came out of it."

Piyabutr said if his party were to be dissolved, it would be the first time an active opposition party has been dismissed.

He said it would also take place just three days before a no-confidence debate is scheduled to take place in parliament.

Piyabutr said he and party leader Thanathorn would be even more politically active and hold speaking events across the country if their party is disbanded.

"The development of democracy is taking its course. Don't use legal warfare or laws as political tools to eliminate political opponents," Piyabutr said. - spa/Asian News Network
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