The Move Forward Party’s Pita Limjaroenrat defies the Constitutional Court and sparks Royalist fury. Claims no legal basis for the party’s dissolution. Election Commission blasted for a lack of due Process. Tensions set to soar as a Thai political crisis looms. 

Move Forward and its former leader Pita Limjaroenrat on Sunday’s opened a political Pandora’s Box when it defied a Constitutional Court to comment on the case before it. The legal action threatens the country’s biggest political party with dissolution. In a breathtaking analysis of the case, Mr Pita said there was no constitutional basis to dissolve the party, that the Election Commission had failed to afford it due process, and finally that the provisions of the Political Parties Act 2017 were being misapplied in this situation. In effect, he argued that there was no basis for a claim that the Move Forward Party had ever attempted to subvert the state.

Pita Limjaroenrat addressed his audience at Sunday’s stunning press conference. At length, he claimed the case brought against the Move Forward Party before the Constitutional Court lacked due process. The former party leader also questioned the constitutional basis for dissolving the party, saying the Political Parties Act 2017 was enacted for a situation where no other course of action was possible. He said the dissolution of the main opposition party would be an ‘attack on democracy.’ (Source: Move Forward Party and Thai Phakdee Party).

According to Mr Pita, neither could proposed legislative action be interpreted as such.

The comments were immediately condemned by a leading Royalist party through its leader Dr Warong Dechgitvigrom.

On Sunday, the Move Forward Party, in defiance of a Constitutional Court order, held a stunning press conference in Bangkok.

Already, the comments made by former leader Pita Limjaroenrat are drawing an angry reaction from pro-royalist groups. Certainly, it appears to be the opening shot of a possible start to another Thai political crisis.

Country’s first choice as PM in recent opinion polls says there is no constitutional basis to dissolve Move Forward in a stunning Sunday press conference

In effect, Mr Pita, whose party is threatened with dissolution by the court under Section 92 of the 2017 Political Parties Act, rejected the court’s authority to disband it.

Speaking to guests and media reporters, he said that nowhere in the 2017 Constitution is there a provision that allows the court to arbitrarily ban a political party.

Furthermore, Mr Pita said that the provisions of the Political Parties Act 2017 were designed to apply to untenable situations. For instance, if a party verily threatened to overthrow the state. He argued that this was not the case regarding these proceedings before the court.

The young politician was named in a King Prajadhipok’s Institute opinion poll as the public’s first choice for Prime Minister. At length, the poll was released on May 27th. Mr Pita garnered 46.9% support. In contrast, incumbent PM Mr Srettha Thavisin came fourth with only 8.7%.

The poll confirmed ongoing surveys which consistently show Mr Pita leading the field

The politician argued that the decision by the Election Commission in April to bring the case before the court was flawed. In short, he said it lacked due process. For instance, the party was not afforded an opportunity to defend itself.

Pita disagreed that a January 31st ruling by the Constitutional Court was an effective death sentence for the party, a view expressed by political analysts

At the same time, he argued that a January 31st ruling by the Constitutional Court was not a death sentence imposed on the party. Unquestionably, this has become the consensus view among political pundits.

Mr Pita said the court’s ruling at the end of January ordered the Move Forward Party to cease activities seeking reform of Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

Before this, the party was the subject of complaints based on its May 2023 General Election manifesto.

Previously, again, the party and 44 of its top representatives had initiated a plan to table legislation before the House of Representatives. This proposed legislation was aimed at reforming the lèse-majesté law.

However, on Sunday, Mr Pita noted that no such legislation was brought before parliament. Furthermore, he argued that even if it had, it could have been struck down if it was found to breach the constitution.

Pita defended its right to pursue legislative goals in parliament. The party had proposed key changes to the lèse-majesté provision but no law was tabled

Moreover, he warned that this was the proper process through which to pursue legal ends.

In effect, the Move Forward Party had suggested changes to the Article 112 provision on lèse-majesté. Firstly, that any complaint be filed by the Royal Household Bureau instead of allowing members of the public to do so.

In that respect, Mr Pita told reporters that the law was being used by certain political actors and others. He said it was being used as a tool to stifle conflicting opinions.

After that, the Move Forward Party proposed to change the penalty on conviction.

Presently, this ranges from 3-15 years. Significantly, the courts have chosen to interpret the law strictly and severely. In effect, it means exceptionally long sentences have been handed down, totalling decades in prison.

Mr Pita told reporters that the severity of such sentences had in turn led the courts to treat the charges as extremely serious with a high penalty. In turn, this has led to some accused people being denied bail.

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Among these was twenty-eight-year-old Netiporn Sanesangkhom, known as ‘Bung,’ who died in prison in mid-May. However, Ms Netiporn was jailed for breaching her bail conditions earlier this year. In truth, the court had granted her bail before that.

Pita said he was confident of his party’s position if there was ‘rule of law’ in Thailand. However, signs are ominous as the court is due to meet on June 12

Finally, Mr Pita told reporters that if the rule of law prevailed, the case before the Constitutional Court would fail.

‘If there is a rule of law in Thailand, I’m extremely confident,’ he explained to reporters.

In brief, the court last week set June 12th to hold a hearing on the defence submitted by the party.

This came despite three extensions granted by the court to file it. However, in an ominous sign, the judges failed to signal any intention of hearing proposed witnesses in the matter.

At the same time, it warned the party not to comment on the case before it had handed down judgment. The nine-member court said this would both prejudice the case and sway public opinion.

Angry reaction and a scathing assessment of Mr Pita’s remarks came shortly afterwards, on Sunday, from Dr Warong Dechgitvigrom of the Thai Phakdee Party

A hostile and angry reaction to the Move Forward Party’s actions on Sunday was not long in coming.

Dr Warong Dechgitvigrom is the Chairman of the Royalist Thai Phakdee Party.

Unquestionably, the smaller party leader was scathing. In short, he described the comments of the Move Forward Party and Pita Limjaroenrat on Sunday as an attack on democracy.

Dr Warong said that the progressive party was practising ‘random’ democracy and that Sunday’s press conference displayed it for all to see.

In addition, he suggested that Mr Pita was no different than ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra except for a difference in age.

In particular, Dr Warong saw the comments by the country’s popular young politician as an attempt to inflame public opinion.

The Royalist leader said it was imperative for politicians to respect the law. Certainly, that was at the heart of democracy.

Pita warned of an ‘attack on democracy’

Nonetheless, Mr Pita and the Move Forward Party, which is part of a wider progressive movement, see the matter differently.

Undoubtedly, Sunday’s press conference can be seen as an open attack on the Election Commission and its decision to bring the case last April.

At the same time, it also defied the court’s specific instructions regarding commentary on the case.

Despite that, Mr Pita remained defiant.

He warned that the dissolution of the country’s largest party and the banning of politicians by the court on these charges would be an ‘attack on democracy.’

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