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World & Nation

Thai court acquits opposition party of sedition charge

Thai politicians
Thailand’s Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, left, with other party members at headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 21, 2020.
(Associated Press)

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday acquitted the country’s third-biggest political party of seeking the overthrow of the country’s constitutional monarchy, a case that had highlighted ongoing political divisions in the Southeast Asian nation.

The court ruled that the Future Forward Party showed no intention of committing the offense, and that the complaint had not been filed according to the correct legal procedure.

The party still faces the threat of dissolution under another pending charge of breaking election laws by taking a large loan from its leader. The party was founded in 2018 during military rule, and takes progressive positions that are anathema to Thailand’s royalist ruling elite.

The party’s surprising finish in an election last year and its popularity among young people rattled the government, which is led by the same people who staged a military coup in 2014.

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The case drew special attention because the complaint had sought to link the party to the mythical conspiracy known as the Illuminati, which is alleged to be an elite organization seeking world domination.

The complaint, filed last year by lawyer Natthaporn Toprayoon, listed statements by party officials supposedly critical of Thai traditions, and pointed out that its logo is an inverted triangle, which if turned right-side up resembles the alleged symbol of the Illuminati. It claimed the Illuminati had sought to overthrow European monarchies and influence the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

The case was one of a series filed against the party and its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. In November, the Constitutional Court stripped Thanathorn of his lawmaker status, ruling that he violated a regulation on media ownership.

There is a widespread belief that one way or another, the party will end up being disbanded, with its leaders barred from political office for several years.

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The party has taken positions explicitly critical of the military for its interference in politics. It also seeks to amend the constitution, drafted after the 2014 coup, to make it more democratic.

The party’s initial support came from youth and young professionals, but it proved to have wider appeal in many parts of the country.

The army staged coups in 2006 and 2014, allowing an election last March after five years of military rule. While in power, it amended the constitution and other laws to try to ensure that pro-democracy parties could not take power.

The military and the courts are the two main pillars of the Thai establishment, and have consistently acted to curb threats to the status quo.

The court’s ruling Tuesday ordered Future Forward to revise its regulations to be clearer in order to comply with the constitution’s stating that any political party must not oppose the constitutional monarchy.

The opposition party’s popularity was underlined last month when several thousand of its supporters rallied in Bangkok, the nation’s capital, in one of the largest political demonstrations since the 2014 coup.

“I think it shows that people will not tolerate dictatorship anymore,” Thanathorn said at the time of the large turnout.


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