Thai poll body asks court to dissolve reformist MFP party

BANGKOK: Thailand's election commission today said it will ask the Constitutional Court to dissolve the reformist Move Forward Party, which won most seats in last year's election.

The MFP upended the kingdom's political order in May's poll, scoring the most votes after a campaign promising reform of the military, business monopolies and to amend the lese-majeste laws.

But their audacious bid — which shocked the Thai establishment — ended with them locked out of government following months of political and legal wrangling.

The election commission (EC) said on Tuesday in a statement it had agreed "unanimously" to seek the dissolution over MFP's campaign pledge to reform the kingdom's tough royal insult laws.

It follows a Constitutional Court decision in January that ruled MFP's pledge over the laws protecting the Thai royal family amounted to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

"The EC has studied the ruling and agrees unanimously to submit a case to dissolve the Move Forward Party to the Constitutional Court," the EC said in a statement.

Thailand has a history of political parties being wound up by judicial intervention, including MFP's forerunner the Future Forward Party, which was dissolved in 2020 over finance issues.

After MFP's election success last year, then-leader Pita Limjaroenrat was blocked from becoming prime minister by conservative forces in the Senate, ostensibly because of the threat he and the party posed to the monarchy.

He returned to parliament in January after the Constitutional Court cleared him of breaching election laws in a separate case that could have seen him barred from politics.

The lese-majeste law is intended to protect the king — a revered, semi-divine figure in Thai society — from insult, and those breaking it can face up to 15 years in jail per offence.

But critics said the legislation has been interpreted so broadly in recent years as to shield the royal family from any kind of criticism or mockery.

Reform of the lese-majeste law, known in Thailand as 112 after the relevant section of the criminal code, was a major theme of massive 2020 demonstrations, which featured unprecedented public criticism of the royal family.

Hundreds of people have faced royal insult charges in the wake of the protests, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal group that handles many cases.

They include senior protest leaders and at least one elected MP. — AFP

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