On Wednesday, all eyes will once more be focused on the Constitutional Court’s upcoming ruling regarding the Move Forward Party (MFP) and its attempts to amend the lese majeste law.
The party has been accused of trying to end constitutional democracy, which maintains the King as the head of state. This was allegedly done through their election campaign, which advocated for changing Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.
Theerayut Suwankesorn, a lawyer recognized for defending Suwit Thongprasert, a former activist monk formerly known as Phra Buddha Isara, submitted the petition.
Theerayut alleged that the MFP’s campaign during the previous May elections, which advocated for changing Section 112, violated Section 49 of the constitution. This section forbids individuals from using their rights to undermine the monarchy.
The party and its then-leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, were the targets of the petition. Theerayut clarified, however, that the petition did not aim to disband his party but merely to halt its efforts to modify Section 112.
Observers believe that the court’s decision will be limited to what the petitioner requested, suggesting it’s improbable that the party will be dissolved. However, the MFP might be directed to cease its efforts to change Section 112.
There is speculation that Wednesday’s verdict might lead to another petition for the party’s disbandment. Legal expert and law faculty dean at Dhurakij Pundit University, Jade Donavanik, expressed his belief that the court is unlikely to dissolve the party.
He noted that the petitioner requested the court to prevent actions perceived as threats to the constitutional monarchy, rather than seeking the party’s dissolution.
“Even if the court finds the MFP’s initiative to change Section 112 harmless to the constitutional monarchy and decides not to dissolve the party, it might still instruct the MFP to stop any future actions considered antagonistic towards the monarchy”, Jade commented.
Nonetheless, MFP’s critics might still initiate another petition for the party’s dissolution under Section 92 of the political party law, which could be a lengthy process.
According to Section 92, if a political party is found guilty of violating Section 49 of the constitution, the Election Commission will collect evidence and ask the Constitutional Court to contemplate dissolving that party and barring its executives from participating in elections for a decade.
Parit Wacharasindhu, an MFP list MP and party spokesperson, reiterated on Tuesday that neither the party nor its MPs have attempted to overthrow the monarchy.
Parit emphasized, “The MFP has been trying to clear up any doubts and insisted that the party and our MPs have not acted in a way that is deemed to attempt to overthrow [the monarchy] as alleged”.
He also mentioned that the party has prepared a contingency plan in case of an unfavorable court ruling.
Previously, Parit mentioned the MFP’s support for a bill to revise the lese majeste law, emphasizing that any legislative change must undergo extensive review by multiple parties in parliament. He assured that the bill does not suggest any intent to undermine the constitutional monarchy.
Observers note Theerayut’s petition relies on a Constitutional Court ruling issued on November 10, 2021.
The court determined that actions by three protest leaders at a Thammasat University rally in August 2020 constituted an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.
The ruling concerned a petition by Natthaporn Toprayoon, a lawyer and former chief ombudsman advisor, regarding whether actions by human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul at the rally breached Section 49 of the constitution.
The three leaders participated in a rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on August 10, 2020, where Panusaya outlined a ten-point demand, including reforms to the monarchy.