Move Forward Party faces dissolution as the Constitutional Court deems the attempt to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code a threat to the Monarchy. The court ordered the party and its former leader Pita Limjaroenrat to cease any campaigning and political rhetoric towards that end. It especially warned against criticism of its decision.

The Constitutional Court, on Wednesday, ruled against the Move Forward Party and its former leader Pita Limjaroenrat. The court delivered its judgement in the afternoon. In effect, it found that the party attempted to overthrow the constitution with the King as Head Of State. It held that the Move Forward Party’s ongoing campaign to amend Article 112 on lèse-majesté was an attack on the country’s highest institution. After today’s judgement, there is a clear path towards having the party dissolved with a referral from the country’s Election Commission.

On Wednesday, there were noticeable glum faces among Move Forward Party followers outside the Constitutional Court. As former leader Mr Pita Limjaroenrat and current leader Mr Chaithawat Tulathon spoke, they were aware of a warning from the court itself about further commentary on the issue, including a threat of contempt of court proceedings.

In a landmark decision on Wednesday, the Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled against the Move Forward Party’s ongoing campaign to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code. This is commonly known as the lèse-majesté law.

The court found that the party’s proposal to alter Article 112 posed a threat to the monarchy. The court ordered former party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and the Move Forward Party to cease all actions related to the proposed legal amendment.

Petition can be made to the country’s Election Commission which is obligated under law to seek the dissolution of the country’s largest political party

In turn, this opens the way for a petition to the Election Commission to file for the disbandment of the party. This is provided for under the country’s laws on political parties. At length, the country’s largest political party is now in peril.

The court’s decision came after hearings in response to a petition filed by activist lawyer Mr Teerayut Suwankasorn. Mr Teerayut became well known as a lawyer for Buddha Issara, a key figure in protests which led to the 2014 coup d’état.

The petitioner successfully argued that Pita Limjaroenrat, as the former leader of the Move Forward Party, and the party itself, used their rights and freedoms to undermine the democratic regime with the King as the Head of State.

The court’s judgement was delivered at the Constitutional Court office just after 2 pm.

In short, it held the Move Forward Party’s proposal to amend Article 112 amounted to an exercise of its rights or an attempt to overthrow the democratic government.

The judges cited the party’s continuous use of the proposed amendment as a campaign policy. In particular, in the campaigning leading up to the May 14th 2023 General Election.

Judges focused on the campaigning of the Move Forward linking the party’s policies and rhetoric to ongoing agitation relating to the Criminal Code provision

Meanwhile, the judges, in their decision, noted the proposed amendment was not tabled in the House of Representatives.

However, it said the issue was being used as a continuous campaign policy by the Move Forward Party.

The court found that this campaign posed a threat to the monarchy. Therefore, it ordered the party and its leader to cease all activities related to the proposed amendment.

Significantly, in its judgement, the court linked the Move Forward Party with wider agitation in relation to the lèse-majesté provision. This includes street protests.

Article 112 makes it a criminal offence to insult or criticise the wider Thai monarchy. It was part of the 1908 coding of the country’s criminal law.

In contrast to elsewhere, the provision was later strengthened in particular after World War Two. In 1957, especially, it was widened in its scope and afterwards, penalties increased.

However, since then, Thailand has had successive charters or constitutions which have led to today’s judgment.

Court explicitly excluded parliamentary decisions from its judgement and concentrated instead on the political campaigning and rhetoric of Move Forward

The court emphasised that proposing bills and amendments is within the duties of Members of Parliament.

At the same time, using such proposals in campaigning, especially when aiming to weaken the monarchy, is not acceptable. 

The court stated that the Move Forward Party’s proposal was an attempt to reduce the status of the King. In effect, it could lead to conflict between the monarchy and the people.

‘The respondent’s proposed amendment to Article 112 and its use as party policy with the intent to erode and undermine the monarchy, causing it to become damaged, dilapidated, and deteriorated, leading to the overthrow of the government with the King as Head of State. Therefore, the respondent’s argument is not sound,’ the court concluded.

The court highlighted the importance of maintaining the King’s position above politics. At length, the importance of ensuring the institution’s political neutrality. 

It held that any attempt to erode the monarchy or involve it in political campaigns was unacceptable. Certainly, it went against the fundamental principles of  Thai governance.

Court orders Move Forward and Pita Limjaroenrat to cease when it comes to such campaigning and political rhetoric. Warned of contempt of court penalties

In response to the ruling, the Constitutional Court specifically ordered Pita Limjaroenrat and the Move Forward Party to stop all campaigning on this issue. In short, this includes speaking, writing, publishing advertisements, or any other media activity, related to the proposed amendment of Article 112.

Additionally, the court explicitly prohibited any future attempts to amend the said law.

The judges similarly warned against criticism of the court’s decision made in bad faith, using obscene or threatening language. Such behaviour could be considered an offence under the Constitutional Court’s Proceedings Act.

The Move Forward Party, undeniably, is recognised for its progressive stance and calls for constitutional reform.

This political activity, by and large, certainly relating to the monarchy, is now legally prohibited. 

Similarly, the party, at this time, stands at odds with the government and the Constitutional Court regarding its proposed agenda. Especially in relation to the lèse-majesté law. 

This ruling certainly is expected to have significant implications for politics in Thailand.

The court’s judgement was both explicit and wide-ranging. In truth, it also has implications for the media and press in its commentary on such developments.

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Further reading:

Pita lives to fight another day. Next week, the court decides the future of the Move Forward Party

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