This afternoon, Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Future Forward Party, ruling that it had violated party funding rules by accepting ฿191m from its founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The money was seized by the Court, and Thanathorn and other Future Forward executives were banned from politics for ten years.
In fact, Thanathorn had loaned the money to Future Forward, as he explained in an interview with Southeast Asia Globe last week: “The loan has a clear contract – I’m not giving this money for free to the party.” (Party fundraising to repay the loan had already begun.) Despite this, the Court ruled that the money constituted a donation, therefore exceeding the ฿10m limit on donations to political parties.
The ruling against Future Forward was practically a foregone conclusion, given that the Constitutional Court has previously dissolved three other parties: Thai Rak Thai in 2006, the People Power Party in 2008, and Thai Raksa Chart last year. The Court also dismissed Yingluck Shinawatra as Prime Minister in 2014. In each of these cases, the Court’s judgements went against parties opposed to the military establishment.
Future Forward contested its first election last year, and quickly built up tremendous support among young Thais frustrated by the country’s perpetual cycle of military coups. Today’s verdict could lead to a significant increase in anti-military activism from this politically-engaged generation of Future Forward supporters.
In his Southeast Asia Globe interview, Thanathorn announced that the party would be renamed following its dissolution, and that he would lead a protest movement to campaign against the influence of the military: “If we’re found guilty of this and our party is dissolved, the struggle will continue... there will be two paths running in parallel – one is a new party in parliament, running under a new name but the same ideology, and the second is a social movement run by me”.