Thai court rules election winners violated constitution on royal insults law
BANGKOK — A Thai court on Wednesday ruled the biggest party in parliament had violated the constitution in seeking to change a law against insulting the monarchy, in what could set a precedent for any future review of one of the world’s strictest lese majeste laws.
The Move Forward Party won last year’s election on a progressive platform that included a once unthinkable proposal to amend the lese majeste law, which carries penalties of up to 15 years in jail for each perceived insult of Thailand’s powerful crown.
The Constitutional Court ordered Move Forward to abandon that plan, which it ruled was tantamount to an attempt to “overthrow the democratic regime of government with the king as a head of state” and therefore in violation of the constitution.
In a country where reverence for the monarch has for decades been promoted as central to national identity, the law, under which at least 260 people have been prosecuted in the past few years, is seen by many royalists as sacrosanct.
Move Forward’s proposal outraged conservatives and saw the party’s attempt to form a government torpedoed last year by lawmakers allied with and appointed by the royalist military.
Though the court had no remit to prescribe punishments for Move Forward, some politicians have suggested there could be legal efforts to seek its dissolution and political bans for its leaders over its stance on the monarchy law.
The court case was the latest twist in a two-decade battle for power in Thailand that broadly pits a nexus of royalists, military and old money families against parties elected on populist or progressive platforms.
Its predecessor, Future Forward, was disbanded for violating campaign funding rules and its former leader and prime minister candidate Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was disqualified over a shareholding issue. — Reuters