Anti-establishment Thai party survives first dissolution bid
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A stridently anti-military Thai party survived a first legal attempt to disband it Tuesday over alleged sedition -- including links to the Illuminati, a secret group conspiracy theorists say is seeking global domination.
The Constitutional Court ruled Future Forward -- a pro-democracy party which vehemently opposes the army-aligned establishment -- had not shown any intent to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.
Dismissing the charge, a judge on the nine-member bench said there was no sign key executives and the party "had taken actions against the constitutional monarchy".
The ruling sparked jubiliation at party headquarters, with supporters cheering "long live democracy" and "hell to dictatorship".
But FFP -- Thailand's third largest party which draws on a deep well of youth support -- still faces further threats of dissolution.
It is loathed by the pro-military establishment for its criticism of the army's role in politics and for pushing policies such as an end to conscription and a cut in defence spending.
The same court is still considering a second charge over alleged illegal loans by its charismatic billionaire founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who also faces a barrage of cases against him.
"We believe those cases are politically motivated," Thanathorn said to cheers at a press conference after the ruling.
He vowed to push for amendments to the 2017 army-scripted constitution, which analysts say tilted last year's election in the favour of military-backed parties.
Calling an end to the "legal war" against Future Forward, secretary general Pitabutr Saengkanokkul said dissolving parties was "not useful to Thailand's democracy".
Thailand's recent political history has been shaped by the courts, which routinely abolish parties and unseats premiers in what critics say are politically motivated cases.
The kingdom has disbanded five parties since 2007 -- a move that "kicks out political talent", analyst Thitnan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University told AFP.
The court considered allegations that speeches by senior FFP members were seditious, as well as a spurious claim the party was linked to the Illuminati, a secret society whose existence has never seriously been proven.
That part of the complaint centered on whether the party logo -- an upside-down triangle -- resembled the symbol of the alleged republican-leaning group traced back to 18th-century Europe.
Thailand's ultra-wealthy monarchy is at the apex of power and is buttressed by harsh royal defamation laws and the backing of the army.
The kingdom remains in a political quagmire with the country split over the arch-royalist government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army chief who seized power in a 2014 coup.
Newly formed Future Forward only came onto Thailand's political scene in 2018, drawing the support of millions of mostly young Thais weary of pro-establishment forces in government.
© 2020 AFP