Thai election body rules loan to opposition party illegal

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s Election Commission has ruled that the head of a popular opposition party violated the law by giving the recently formed group a loan, a decision that could lead to its dissolution and unsettle the country’s politics.

The commission announced yesterday that Future Forward Party chief Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit violated election laws by providing the THB191 million (USD6.3 million) loan, and said it will forward the case to the Constitutional Court, which could dissolve the party and force its lawmakers out of Parliament.

The brief statement from the commission implied that it considered the loan to be a donation, which is legally limited to THB10 million (USD330,000).

Thanathorn’s party, which finished third in a March general election, has been an irritant to Thailand’s conservative establishment, in whose favour the courts have consistently ruled.

The party is disliked by the establishment not only for its anti-military stance, but also because of its strong popularity.

The coalition government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha currently holds a shaky majority in Parliament, and the expulsion of Future Forward Party members would strengthen its position.

However, it could also energise Prayuth’s opponents, who believe that the March election was conducted under unfair rules implemented by the military regime he headed from 2014 until earlier this year.

Leader of the anti-military Future Forward Party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit surrounded by his supporters. PHOTO: AP