Thailand’s Constitutional Court delays decision on PM’s fate and Move Forward Party dissolution until at least July, while giving the green light for Senate elections to be finalised on June 26th.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday extended consideration of the Prime Minister’s fate until July 10th. In the meantime, it scheduled July 9th to review evidence and witnesses in the Move Forward Party dissolution case. In short, it appears the court is looking deeply into the arguments being advanced by the embattled party. Many had thought it was facing a quick dissolution. At the same time, academics and legal experts still opine that the party will essentially be dissolved. Earlier on Tuesday, in another surprise, the Constitutional Court gave the all-clear to the country’s Senate elections. This now opens the way to a final count and selection process in Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok. This will take place on June 26th, with the country’s 200 new senators being certified in early July.

(Left) Former Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat at the Constitutional Court on Tuesday. Mr Pita was encouraged that the court appeared to be conducting a fuller review of the matter. Most analysts did not expect this. (Inset) Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will have to wait until July 10th when the court will review the petition seeking his ouster from office. (Right) On Tuesday, there was good news for Election Commission Secretary-General Sawaeng Boonmee when the court gave the all-clear to the Senate election which will be finalised on June 26th. (Source: Constitutional Court, Government House, Election Commission and ThaiRath)

On Tuesday, with three cases before it, the Constitutional Court effectively only disposed of one. That was a unanimous decision to give the all-clear to the Senate elections currently underway.

Election Commission Secretary-General Sawaeng Boonmee later clarified that nothing could now stop the election of 200 senators.

Senate final selection goes ahead in Muang Thong Thani Bangkok on June 26th. New Senate will then be certified by the Election Commission in early July

The next stage in the process will be the selection of 200 senators from 3000 candidates who have made it through district rounds. This is scheduled to take place on June 26th.

The venue will be the Impact Arena just outside Bangkok in Pakkred. The massive meeting centre is located in  Muang Thong Thani.

In turn, the Election Commission is confident it will be able to certify all Senators in early July.

Certainly, the decision came as a surprise to many analysts.

Previously, the court had indicated some substantive issues while legal expert and government advisor Wissanu Krea-ngam had also suggested some concerns.

In the meantime, outgoing Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn, on Monday, again urged the court to look closely at irregularities. In particular, he pointed to peer voting in Buriram province.

Election Commission congratulated for pressing ahead with upper house poll in the face of rising concerns and vociferous objections over the last few weeks

Nonetheless, on Tuesday afternoon, the Election Commission and its top executives were being congratulated for pushing ahead with the elections. This came despite continuous claims of suspect activity

Mr Sawaeng at the same time cautioned that it was not a material matter for the commission itself.

However, he stated that all Thai people should feel good as the country was moving forward this week with seating its upper house.

On Tuesday, the next communication from the Constitutional Court came in respect of the Election Commission’s petition to dissolve the Move Forward Party. 

Previously, it asked for further evidence to be delivered by June 17th. Nevertheless, on Tuesday, the court indicated a longer consideration process.

Move Forward Party former leader Pita Limjaroenrat sounded more confident on Tuesday that the Constitutional Court was considering the party’s defence

At length, this was welcomed by Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat.

Afterwards, within the court precincts, he explained that he thought the party’s 9-point defence would hold up. Undoubtedly, the fact that the court will examine witnesses and evidence on July 9th next was thought to be good news.

Move Forward Party officials are arguing that its proposed dissolution under Section 92 of the 2017 Political Parties Act was not constitutionally pursued.

In particular, they point to the fact that the party had no opportunity to defend itself before the Election Commission.

Responding, the Election Commission pointed to the court’s January 31 ruling number 03/2024. In short, it argued that the ruling made the party’s position clear. That the main opposition party had tried to overthrow the state as defined by the 2017 charter.

Move Forward Party argues that the court’s prior ruling on January 31 2024 did not automatically mean it breached the 2017 Constitution. It was a warning

However, the Move Forward Party argues that this was simply a warning from the court.

Afterwards, it took action based on its findings. Furthermore, it argues that as legislators, its MPs are entitled to discuss and bring proposed laws before parliament.

Move Forward faces dissolution after Constitutional Court rules it tried to subvert the monarchy

Previously, in 2022 and 2023, the Move Forward Party had floated the idea of amending Section 112 of the Criminal Code. In short, this is the highly controversial lèse-majesté provision.

The party wanted to legislate so that only the Royal Household Bureau could bring such complaints to the police. 

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In addition, it wanted to reduce the penalty. Presently, this stands at 3-15 years per count. Indeed, the courts have often strictly interpreted the law. They have handed down multiple long sentences to be served consecutively. This has seen online commentators sentenced to dozens of years behind bars.

Move Forward Party suggests its attempts to amend the Criminal Code in parliament was a legitimate use of its legislative powers to protect the monarchy

In turn, the Move Forward Party has argued that such outcomes in particular are damaging to the monarchy. Previously it suggested that the ability of any person to file such a complaint turns the lèse-majesté provisions into a political weapon.

Nonetheless, after this year’s ruling, the progressive opposition party removed any campaign material relating to the provision, especially from the main Move Forward Party website.

On Tuesday, the court said it would review the case on July 3rd but set aside July 9th for an examination of evidence and witnesses.

Pita wondered  what new witnesses and evidence may now emerge from the Election Commission which previously claimed the January 31 ruling was sufficient

Significantly, the court suggested that any evidence or particulars relating to its January 2024 ruling should be presented again to the court.

Despite claims by Mr Pita that the case is quite separate from the January 2024 judgement, the consideration of that judgement appears to be on the court’s mind.

On Tuesday, Mr Pita also noted that the Election Commission has additionally been invited to produce further evidence and witnesses.

While he looked forward to presenting the opposition party’s case, he wondered what the commission would now produce apart from relying on the original court judgement.

Case against the Prime Minister postponed until July 10th. Court wants further submissions from concerned parties along a list of queries for consideration

Later on Tuesday, the court also postponed consideration of the case linked with a call to remove the Prime Minister. This is being made by 40 senators under Sections 170 and 82 of the 2017 Constitution. 

The outgoing senators are calling for Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s ouster.

They claim the appointment of Pichit Chuenban, as a minister in April was a breach of the charter. Mr Pichit was a former lawyer for Thaksin Shinawatra in a 2008 case linked to bribery.

In effect, they argued that the lawyer had been jailed on June 25, 2008, for bribing Supreme Court officials.

Therefore, he was unfit under Section 160 (4) and (5) of the Constitution. In effect, his appointment was a contravening act lacking in ethics.

Court to look at the case again on July 10th

In response, lawyers for PM Srettha Thavisin argued that he complied with all considerations before making the appointment.

In addition, they argue that the character requirement under Section 160 is to be applied after the event. Certainly not retrospectively as that would appear to suggest Mr Pichit’s character was questionable.

The short-lived minister resigned before the case came before the Constitutional Court on May 23rd.

In effect, on Tuesday, the court proposed to again look at the case on July 10. At the same time, it invited further submissions on a list of questions raised by it from parties to the case.

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