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Thailand election body seeks to dissolve progressive party that won 2023 vote

Written by World News

Thailand’s election commission has said it will seek the dissolution of the progressive Move Forward party – which won last year’s general election – after a court ruled that the party’s proposal to amend a royal anti-defamation law was unconstitutional.

The commission said that after studying a constitutional court’s ruling from January, its members unanimously agreed to file a case with the court seeking the party’s dissolution because they believe the proposal was an attempt to overthrow Thailand’s constitutional monarchy.

It was unclear whether the court will accept the petition.

Move Forward’s progressive agenda has resonated among millions of young and urban voters and it won a stunning victory over military-backed parties in a May election.

But its plan to change lese majeste laws outraged conservative lawmakers allied with the royalist military who torpedoed the party’s attempts to form a government.

If the party is dissolved, its leaders could be banned from politics for 10 years.

Parit Wacharasindhu, a spokesperson for Move Forward, said the party’s legal team would “try their best until the last second to prevent the party from being dissolved,” and that proving its innocence would also help “create a proper standard for Thai politics in the future.”

The constitutional court ruling in January found the party’s proposed amendments to the lese majeste laws constituted an attempt to destroy Thailand’s constitutional monarchy.

“There is evidence that Move Forward undermines the democratic system with the king as the head of state,” the election commission said in a statement on Tuesday.

Thailand’s lese majeste legislation carries punishment of up to 15 years jail for each perceived insult or defamation against the king, queen, heir and regent. Thailand’s monarchy is enshrined in the constitution to be held in a position of “revered worship,” and many royalists see the lese majeste law as sacrosanct.

However, rights activists say the law has been abused by conservative politicians to smear liberal opponents and stifle institutional reforms. More than 260 people have been prosecuted under the legislation since 2020, including a man facing a record 50 years’ jail time over Facebook posts critical of the monarchy.

The Move Forward party has argued that its campaign to change article 112 was aimed at strengthening the constitutional monarchy and preventing the law from being misused.

“We have no intention to overthrow the democratic system with the king as the head of state,” Parit told Reuters on Tuesday.

“We will prove our innocence at the constitutional court,” he said.

Pita Limjaroenrat, who led the party to its 2023 election victory, told Reuters in an interview last month Move Forward had a succession plan if it was dissolved and the party’s ideology would live on.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

 

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