Thai anti-junta party hit with fresh legal troubles

BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai anti-junta party hit back yesterday against accusations it is attempting to “undermine the constitutional monarchy”, a day after the popular movement was hit with fresh legal troubles.

Billionaire Thanathorn Juangroon-gruangkit’s youth-oriented Future Forward Party has been hit by more than a dozen legal cases since its success in elections held in March, when it stunned the military establishment by securing over six million votes.

The constitutional court – which dissolved another anti-junta party in February – accepted a petition against the political group “for using its freedom to undermine the constitutional monarchy,” a statement said late on Friday.

Future Forward has 15 days to “clarify” the matter, the court said, although it remains unclear what the penalties will be if the party is found guilty.

Party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich called it a “political case” and denied the accusations.

“Those who undermine democracy and constitutional monarchy are those who commit coup d’etats,” she told AFP yesterday.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha. – AP

It is the 23rd case to befall the organisation, Pannika said, adding it was obvious “the election results have made the junta regime very nervous”.

Thailand remains bitterly divided after 15 years of coups, violent protests and short-lived governments amid a festering rivalry between an arch-royalist conservative establishment and parties supported by the poor and middle class.

Current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power in a 2014 coup before being reinstalled as a civilian premier after the March 24 elections.

The court has also accepted another petition questioning Prayut’s qualification as premier, a case initiated by 110 politicians from seven opposition parties.

They have argued that since Prayut was a junta leader, he should not have been eligible to stand for prime minister in the election.

However, Prayut will not be suspended as prime minister while the court deliberates as “there is no evidence of any damage caused by the accused,” the statement said.

Thanathorn was suspended from Parliament in May when the constitutional court accepted a case alleging he violated election rules by holding shares in a media company.

Since Parliament convened the former tycoon has travelled to Europe and the United States (US) to talk to officials about the state of Thailand’s democracy.