MFP braces for key court ruling

Lese majeste case may spur disbandment bid

MFP braces for key court ruling
Pita: Court backed him over shareholding

Attention will once again be on a Constitutional Court ruling on Move Forward Party (MFP) affairs when on Wednesday the court passes judgement on whether the party’s efforts to amend the lese majeste law are constitutional.

The party had been accused of seeking to end the constitutional democracy with the King as head of state through an election campaign that called for an amendment to Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.

The petition was filed by Theerayut Suwankesorn, a lawyer known for his defence of Suwit Thongprasert, an ex-activist monk formerly known as Phra Buddha Isara.

Mr Theerayut claims the MFP’s election campaign for last year’s May polls, which pushed for an amendment to Section 112, breached Section 49 of the constitution. The section prohibits people from using their rights and freedoms to overthrow the monarchy.

The petition was directed against the party and Pita Limjaroenrat, who was then MFP leader.

However, Mr Theerayut said the petition did not seek to dissolve his party. It only wanted the party to stop trying to amend Section 112.

So, the court’s ruling will not go beyond the petitioner’s request, according to observers. This means it is unlikely the court will dissolve the party, though the MFP may be ordered to abandon its push to amend Section 112.

However, Wednesday’s ruling could be a precursor for a separate petition to be filed seeking the party’s disbandment.

Jade Donavanik, a legal scholar and dean of the Faculty of Law at Dhurakij Pundit University, said he believed the court will not rule to dissolve the party.

He said the petitioner only asked the court to stop any action deemed as an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, not dissolve the party.

“Even if the court rules that the MFP’s push to amend Section 112 does not pose a threat to the constitutional monarchy and does not dissolve the party, it may order the MFP to stop any future actions deemed hostile to the monarchy,” Mr Jade said.

But, critics of the MFP may still file another petition seeking the party’s dissolution under Section 92 of the political party law, he said, adding that a party dissolution case will take a long time.

Under Section 92 of the law, if the court finds any political party guilty of violating Section 49 of the constitution, the Election Commission will gather evidence and petition the Constitutional Court to consider dissolving that party and banning its party executives from applying to run in elections for 10 years.

Parit Wacharasindhu, an MFP list MP and party spokesman, insisted again on Tuesday that the actions of the party or any of its MPs did not constitute an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.

“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,” Mr Parit said.

Mr Parit also said that if the court rules against the MFP, the party already has a contingency plan in place to deal with any unfavourable ruling.

Previously, Mr Parit referred to the MFP sponsoring a draft bill to rectify the lese majeste law.

He said that for any legislation to be enacted, it must go through a thorough multi-party vetting in parliament, adding nowhere in the draft bill is there a mention of the amendment attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

According to observers, Mr Theerayut’s petition was based on a Constitutional Court ruling delivered on Nov 10, 2021.

The court ruled that the actions of three protest leaders at a rally at Thammasat University in August 2020 were an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

The ruling involved allegations by Natthaporn Toprayoon, a lawyer and former adviser to the chief ombudsman, who petitioned the court to consider whether the actions of human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul violated Section 49 of the constitution.

The three protest leaders took part in a rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus in Pathum Thani’s Klong Luang district on Aug 10, 2020. At the rally, Ms Panusaya read out a set of 10 demands, including reform of the monarchy.