Constitutional Court to review evidence on PM’s tenure, Move Forward Party’s fate on June 18th. A  vote is scheduled on acknowledged Senate election issues. Former PM Thaksin faces indictment on criminal charges including one for lèse-majesté at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG). Political instability carries over to next week.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court issued a brief in which it requested further information from parties to key cases to make submissions by June 17th. Firstly, there is the case where the Prime Minister’s tenure in office is being reviewed by the court due to his controversial appointment of a minister previously jailed for bribery. Secondly, the Move Forward Party’s potential dissolution was postponed with the Election Commission asked to provide evidence also by June 17th. However, the court did indicate a legal problem linked with the Senate election. In short, it will take a vote on the matter on June 18th. That is also the date former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra is due to report to the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) to face criminal charges of lèse-majesté and offences under the Computer Crime Act.

Cases impinging on the kingdom’s politics rise to four. Chief among them is the case threatening the tenure of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin (centre). His removal from office over a controversial ministerial appointment would collapse the government and a backroom deal that has brought together parties across the political divide. Secondly, the criminal case being prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) against former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra (right). All will be addressed on June 18th, the new D-Day in Thai politics. (Source: Constitutional Court and Office of the Attorney-General (OAG))

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court published a document dealing with key cases before it.

The legal proceedings have already led to heightened political instability in the kingdom. The court set a date for the next hearing on Tuesday, June 18th.

Main threat to stability is the case against PM Srettha Thavisin which would collapse the government if it goes against him. Brought by Senate members 

In particular, there is concern over the case seeking an annulment of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s tenure. The case was brought by 40 senators previously appointed by the military junta in 2019. 

It contends that the appointment of Mr Pichit Chuenban as Prime Minister’s Office minister at the end of April was unlawful.

Mr Pichit, in 2008, was jailed for his part in a bribery scheme targeting Supreme Court officials.

At length, ฿2 million was found in an envelope in a lunch box within the court precincts. The revelations, when confirmed, led to Mr Pichit and others being jailed by the court for six months for contempt.

At that time, Mr Pichit had been acting in his capacity as a lawyer in the case before the court for ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Significant defence submitted to the court last Friday. It argued the relevant Constitutional requirements were not meant to be applied retrospectively

On May 23rd, the court ruled 6-3 to take up the case. Senators argued in their petition to the court that Mr Pichit’s appointment violated Articles 160 (4) and (5) of the 2017 Constitution.

In short, they contended that he was not a morally upright person and lacked integrity for the position.

Significantly, on Wednesday, it was reported that part of Mr Srettha’s defence in the matter is that these values were not meant to apply retrospectively. The PM’s defence was submitted to the court last Friday

Mr Srettha recently appointed former General Prayut era deputy prime minister and legal advisor Wissanu Krea-ngam as an advisor.

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This case was among three which featured in the Constitutional Court announcement on Wednesday.

Collapse of the government would also bring an end to the backroom deal that is known to have been forged allowing Thaksin’s return and a ‘unity’ cabinet

Certainly, many political analysts believe the PM’s case is the most important. Unquestionably, if Mr Srettha Thavisin is removed from office then the government will fall.

Additionally, so too will the political backroom deal made between the country’s warring political factions.

This deal effectively allowed three parties from the previous military-linked government into the present cabinet. The breakup of that cabinet would immediately spark new divisions in Thai politics.

Conservative forces were seen as being accommodated in the deal forged in the aftermath of last year’s election. This culminated on August 22nd, 2023, when Mr Thaksin returned to Thailand. 

On the same day, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin was elected by parliament to the role. His ascension was made possible by the support of senators loyal to former junta players.

Court is considering the defence put forward by the Move Forward Party against its dissolution as it requested information from the Election Commission

On Wednesday also, the court intimated that it may be considering arguments put forward by the Move Forward Party.

Many analysts had been expecting the Constitutional Court to issue a ruling dissolving the party. 

However, instead, it asked the Election Commission to provide further information by June 17th. This information is related to its reason for seeking the dissolution of the party under Section 92 (1) and (2) of the constitution.

Previously, the Election Commission has suggested that this was self-explanatory. In short, the ruling of the court on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. 

That ruling 3/2024 ordered the Move Forward Party to cease campaigning for a change in Article 112. This is the controversial lèse-majesté criminal code provision. At the same time, it suggested that such activity was an attempt to overthrow the constitution and an attack on the monarchy.

Move Forward Party leader Chaitawat Tulathon appeared more optimistic after Wednesday’s communication from the Constitutional Court seeking clarification

Subsequently, the Move Forward Party took certain actions in response to the January ruling. This included removing materials calling for reform of the lèse-majesté provision from its website.

At the same time, it claims its discussion of proposed legislation regarding this was a legitimate activity. The party argues there is no legal basis to dissolve it.

Move Forward draws fire from Royalist leader for claiming there is no legal case for its dissolution which is expected

Many academics, including Yuthaphon Isarachai, a lecturer at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, are not convinced. Mr Yuthaphon said on Wednesday that the chances of the Move Forward Party being dissolved remain high.

At the same time, after the court’s communication on Wednesday, Move Forward Party leader Chaitawat Tulathon was more optimistic.

He said he thought the court’s request for further clarification from the Election Commission was a hopeful sign. Mr Chaitawat said a full and open hearing or a probe into the matter would be beneficial to everyone.

Meanwhile, he told reporters that the party was not thinking yet of transferring its MPs. Indeed, he insisted that the discussion in parliament on the government’s 2025 budget was its key concern at this time.

Court did signal a problem on Wednesday with the provisions in place for the ongoing Senate Election. Indeed, it is set to vote on the matter next Tuesday

Finally, on Wednesday, the court did indicate that it would make a ruling on June 18th in respect of one case.

That involved parties who have questioned the Senate’s election law. In particular, Section 36, Section 40, Section 41 and Section 42.

In summary, the 2017 Constitution Section 107 dealt with the Senate and the election of the body.

Essentially, it laid down rules regarding influence being used to select its membership. It specified that the selection of senators be carried out ‘honestly and justly’.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court indicated that there was indeed a ‘legal problem’. Certainly, it ruled there was no need for further information. Therefore, it scheduled June 18th to discuss the matter and vote on a ruling.

Observers fear this may indicate bad news for the Election Commission’s efforts to finalise the senate election with the new upper house expected to be sworn in on July 2nd.

Former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra is to travel personally to the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) on Tuesday, June 18th to be indicted on new charges

In the meantime, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra has confirmed that he will attend the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) in person on June 18th. He is facing indictment under the lèse-majesté charge prosecuted against him since 2016.

In short, it relates to an interview given by him to a South Korean newspaper.

Previously, an army unit under the junta regime pursued the investigation against him. This led to charges under the lèse-majesté provision Article 112 and the Computer Crime Act.

Significantly, the Attorney-General, Amnat Jedcharoenruk, on May 29th, decided to proceed with the charge against Mr Thaksin. This charge was unknown to Mr Thaksin before he returned on August 22nd, 2023.

In effect, it is seen as part of the backroom deal negotiated behind the scenes. The decision to prosecute Mr Thaksin came despite an appeal to him for fair treatment earlier filed with the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG).

Last week, a similar appeal was made.

Real fears that Mr Thaksin may be denied bail

Presently, there is a fear that Mr Thaksin may be denied bail on June 18th. This is because of his previous history of breaching bail conditions.

In particular, his failure to return to the kingdom in 2018 to face an ongoing criminal case in which he was subsequently found guilty.

In conclusion, Thailand’s government and political environment are again held in suspense by the courts.

On Wednesday, Mr Yuthaphon of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University said he feared the collapse of the current government.

He warned it could lead to political instability and conflict. In short, he called on whoever was behind the petition to the courts and other agencies to think carefully.

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Further reading:

PM Srettha blames stock market fall on politics but the trend is linked to fundamental economic decline

Political maelstrom may be unleashed in June with potential crises brewing and coming to a climax

Wissanu is back in government service as the aura of political instability returned to Thailand this week

PM survives Constitutional Court’s call in a close run thing raising real questions over his future

PM Srettha Thavisin could be temporarily toppled from power on Thursday by the Constitutional Court

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Thaksin’s real influence hinted at with a lunchtime meeting at his daughter’s central Bangkok hotel in Ploenchit

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