Thai court strips FFP of power, orders opposition party disbanded

Former founder and chief of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP) in Thailand, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. (Photo: Bangkok Post)

The Constitutional Court of Thailand, in a landmark ruling on Friday (Feb. 21), has ordered the popular opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) dissolved—banning the party’s executive members from holding office for the next 10 years.

The court, in its ruling, declared that the FFP violated election laws by accepting a multi-million-dollar loan from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The case was referred to the court by the Election Commission, after determining in December that the FFP had broken the law by accepting an eye watering 191 million-baht (US$6 million) loan from Thanathorn, its co-founder and chief. 

The commission measured the loan equivalent to a donation, which, by Thai law, is limited to 10 million-baht (US$316,000).

In its defence, the FFP argued that the law made no mention of loans. The charismatic, 41-year-old Thanathorn is a billionaire whose family fortune was made in the auto parts industry.

The FFP was founded in March 2018 as Thailand was heading toward an election after a period of military rule that began with a 2014 coup.

The ruling against the party comes just ahead of a no-confidence debate in parliament set to begin Monday against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and several cabinet members.

The opposition party and its liberal and reformist views has been an eyesore for the government and the conservative forces in Thai society. Especially due to the FFP’s ever-growing popularity. The party placed a strong and surprising third in a general election last March and currently holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives.

Of the 16 members of the FFP’s executive committee, 11 are members of parliament and, following today’s court ruling, lose their seats.

The party’s remaining 65 lawmakers could take part in the upcoming no-confidence debate but must find a new party within 60 days to keep their seats. It was not immediately clear how the 11 empty seats will be filled.

Hundreds of FFP supporters had gathered at the party’s headquarters to watch the court ruling. Many shed tears after the verdict was read.