The respondent cites 17 witnesses but today the court asked for a memorandum of facts and opinions to be submitted by February 12th as well as documents and statements from the Election Commission in relation to the case.
The Constitutional Court has fixed a date and time for its decision on what represents the greatest legal challenge to the continued existence of the Future Forward Party in a statement issued today. Thailand’s radical party and its charismatic leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit will now know their political fates on Friday 21st at 3 pm.
The decision could see the party disbanded and its 15 member executive including its leader and co-founder Thanathorn, banned from Thai politics.
The Constitutional Court has announced that it will give its verdict on the case brought by the Election Commission calling for the dissolution of the Future Forward Party on February 21st 2020 at 3 O’ Clock in the afternoon.
The court in a recent decision, on the 21st of January last, spared the party on charges of undermining the monarchy brought by an activist. It found that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the claims.
This legal challenge, however, represents a far more ominous and significant threat to its existence.
Case was taken up by the court in December
The case was submitted to the court by the Election Commission by a majority decision and taken up by it last December.
It concerns two loans making up ฿191.5 million made by the party’s wealthy co-founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit in early 2019 to fund the party before and after the March 24th General Election.
Election Commission says ฿191.5 million in loans were illegal and breached the 2017 Political Party Act
The proceedings by the Election Commission have been brought under the Political Party Act of 2017 and followed an investigation after activists Srisuwan Janya reported comments made by the Future Forward Party leader in May 2019 to the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok suggesting that he had loaned ฿200 million to the new political party.
3-year loan to be paid in instalments
It was later confirmed that Mr Thanathorn had advanced a 3-year loan to be paid back in instalments of ฿161.5 million before the election last year and in May, a further ฿30 million. The interest rate charged was 7.5% and the loans were drawn up with the executive at an arm’s length basis.
Prohibited under Section 66 and an illegal source under Section 72 of the law governing parties
However, the Election Commission has deemed that the loans were excessive and therefore prohibited under Section 66 of the Political Party Act. It then cited the party under Section 72 for accepting money from a prohibited source.
Call for the Future Forward Party to be dissolved and 15 member executive banned from politics
The commission has called for the party to be dissolved and its executives prohibited from further participation in Thai politics.
The party won 81 seats in the March 24th election when it came out of nowhere to win 17.34% of the popular vote among young and educated voters with a more radical and progressive outlook.
Election Commission called for a decision
Today’s announcement from the court is reported to have followed a request from the Election Commission for a decision on the matter.
Witness testimony not required
Today, the court clarified that it did not require witness testimony. However, it cited 17 witnesses submitted by the respondents in the case and has asked for a written memorandum of facts and opinions to be delivered to the court by next Wednesday, the 12th of February.
Statements, documents required by the 12th February
It has also requested that the Election Commission and its Secretary-General put forward its opinions on the matter by the same date as well as supporting documentation.
These requests have been made under Section 27 (3) of the Organic Act of Procedure governing the Constitutional Court.
Decision on Friday, February 21st
On this basis, the court will render its judgement and decision on the matter before it on Friday the 21st February at 3 pm at the courtroom on the 3rd Floor of the Constitutional Court at the Government Centre on Chaeng Watthana Road in Bangkok.