BANGKOK — A Future Forward Party leader said Thursday he already had a backup plan in place if the court decides to dissolve his party over a 191-million baht loan case later this month.
Party deputy leader Chamnan Chanruang said he could be banned from politics along with other executives for up to 20 years if the Constitutional Court found the party guilty in its verdict, which is scheduled for Feb 21. The party, who commands 76 seats in the lower house, is accused of breaching a voting law by receiving a loan from his billionaire founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
“If the party is dissolved, the executive board will go down. We could be banned from politics for up to 20 years and the situation will be like a beehive being crushed,” Chamnan said. “Mass migration will take place to another party [as agreed], though some may not toe the line.”
Chamnan said while he has plans for life after politics for the worst-case scenario, he believes there’s still a chance that the court could dismiss the case.
“We requested for 17 witnesses to be heard but the court said they already had sufficient materials for adjudication,” Chamnan said.
He said this lack of witness testimony could be interpreted to mean the court was preparing to decide in favor of the party, because if they want to dissolve the party, Chamnan said, the judges would at least exhaust all counter arguments and evidence first.
Chamnan also said a leaked document shows that 32 other political parties have been taking loans from their party leaders.
If Future Forward is dissolved, others will likely have to face the same fate, leading to a malfunctional parliament, he said.
Less optimistic is senior party official Chaithawat Tulathon, who is widely expected to lead the party in case all the executives are banned from politics.
Writing on Facebook, Chaithawat said that the legal charges against the party have “no legitimacy”.
“They want to really dissolve the party in order to destroy our struggle for democracy, and to pin down Thai society under the power of the privileged groups forever,” he wrote.
Article 66 of Political Parties Act bars individuals from donating money or assets worth more than 10 million baht to parties within a period of one year.
Article 72 of the law also prohibits political parties and party executives from taking donations, cash or assets from an illegitimate source. The Future Forward insists it was a legitimate loan, and not a donation.
The verdict is scheduled just three days before the House of Representatives is due to start its No-Confidence censure debate against the government.
This means if the party is dissolved by the court, MPs who serve as executive members of the party will also be banned from politics, and prohibited from participating in the crucial debate.
Future Forward sec-gen Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said at a news conference that he found the verdict’s timing “suspicious.”