CNA Explains: What’s next for Thailand’s progressive movement, after court ruling against Move Forward Party?

CNA Explains: What's next for Thailand's progressive movement, after court ruling against Move Forward Party?

What’s next for the party?

Addressing media on Wednesday, Move Forward’s leader Chaithawat Tulathon warned that the ruling could make the royal institution increasingly “a factor behind conflicts in Thai politics”.

Former party leader Pita Limjaroenrat also bemoaned a “lost opportunity for us to use the parliament to find a consensus for such an important and sensitive issue”.

Mr Pita was absolved by the Constitutional Court a week before, in a different case to do with allegations of illegally possessing shares in a media company.

The broadcaster in question, iTV, went off-air in 2007 and therefore couldn’t be considered a media company anymore. 

The ruling also reinstated him as a member of parliament, where he almost immediately took the opportunity to criticise the government’s flagship cash handout plans.

But the most recent ruling could put Mr Pita and Move Forward’s political future in jeopardy yet again.

One only needs to look at what happened to Move Forward’s predecessor Future Forward.

In 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that the latter party’s then-leader Thanathorn Juangruanroongkit allegedly violated finance laws. He and the entire executive board were banned from seeking political office for 10 years.

If another attempt to dissolve Move Forward succeeds, it’s expected that the party leadership would be punished the same way.

But generally, party dissolutions have proven to be a blunt, yet ineffective tool.

Thai political parties often have plans in place for remaining lawmakers to carry on under a new banner.

Even the ruling Pheu Thai Party is the third incarnation of the original Thai Rak Thai Party; which has won two elections since a court-ordered dissolution in 2007.

And if Move Forward’s diligent legislative record as an opposition party and its election success in 2023 show one thing, it’s that beyond political parties, the popularity of the reformist-progressive platform is no fluke and its trajectory points upwards.