31 January 2024

“The law is not a fax paper sent from God...”

Democracy Monument

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Move Forward Party’s pledge to amend the lèse-majesté law violated article 49 of the constitution, according to which it is forbidden “to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.” The court has ordered Move Forward and its former leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, to cease all activities and campaigns related to lèse-majesté reform.

The court’s investigation into Move Forward began in July last year, when a petition was filed by Theerayut Suwankesorn, lawyer for the disgraced former monk Suwit Thongprasert. (Last week, in an unrelated case, the court ruled that Pita’s ownership of shares in a defunct media company was not unconstitutional.)

Theerayut’s petition did not call for Move Forward’s dissolution, though now that the court has deemed the party’s agenda tantamount to treason, others may take the opportunity to do so. Since the election, there has been a concerted effort to muzzle Move Forward, and the Constitutional Court has a long history of dissolving anti-establishment parties, namely Thai Rak Thai, People Power, Thai Raksa Chart, and Move Forward’s predecessor Future Forward.

Move Forward is not a republican party, and had not sought to abolish the lèse-majesté law, only to reduce the fifteen-year maximum sentence for offenders, and to restrict those who can press charges. This was a key policy in Move Forward’s election-winning manifesto, though today’s verdict will significantly restrict the party’s progressive agenda.

At a press conference today, before the verdict was announced, former Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said: “The law is not a fax paper sent from God. It’s written by human hands, therefore people can amend it”. (Thanathorn was disqualified as an MP by the Constitutional Court in 2019.)