A step backward for Future Forward . . .
Thailand’s constitutional court ordered the dissolution of the country’s third-largest political party, the Future Forward Party (FFP), ruling that a C$7.5-million loan by its leader and founder, 41-year-old billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, violated campaign laws. The court also banned 16 senior party leaders from politics for 10 years. The FFP was formed two years ago and had a stronger-than-expected performance in the March 2019 general elections, winning 81 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives. FFP campaigned on constraining the military’s power and reviewing the role of the monarchy, which hit a nerve with Prayut Chan-ocha, a royalist and former army chief who led a coup in 2014 and installed himself prime minister, a post he has retained.
Barrage of lawsuits . . .
Thanathorn has denied wrongdoing and says the charges were politically motivated. He and others have pointed out that election finance laws in Thailand are ambiguous, and that no other party has received a similar level of scrutiny. One expert observed that Chan-ocha and his allies were determined to get rid of the FFP one way or another, and that using the country’s courts and bureaucracies to undermine opposition parties has been one of their favoured tactics since the early 2000s. There have been 28 lawsuits brought against FFP, including one that suggested the party was plotting to overthrow the monarchy. The court ruled in the FFP’s favour last month on that matter.
Political crisis likely far from over . . .
Chan-ocha and his political allies may be celebrating a short-term victory over their nemesis, but the FFP’s dissolution will not solve a more fundamental challenge: a new generation of Thai youth that is politically active and deeply alienated from the military- and monarchy-dominated political establishment. The Nikkei Asian Review has described the political experiences of young Thais being defined by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, military coups, and crippling dysfunction. The perception that FFP has been singled out is likely to alienate and mobilize them even further.
- Council on Foreign Relations: Thailand’s political treadmill keeps running
- The Guardian: Thai court dissolves opposition party Future Forward
- Nikkei Asian Review: Thailand’s fearless youth stands up to the military and monarchy