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Joined: 13 Jan 2007
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|Posted: Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:03 pm Post subject: Illuminati claims: Thailand's Future Forward party in court
Thai court finds opposition party not guilty of 'Illuminati' sedition charge
Analysts say that Future Forward Party still faces prospective dissolution in other legal cases.
by Caleb Quinley 21 Jan 2020
Bangkok, Thailand - Thailand's Constitutional Court has acquitted the opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) and its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, of conspiring to overthrow the monarchy.
As a panel of judges read out the verdict, citing a lack of evidence to proceed with dissolution, supporters gathered at the reformist FFP's headquarters in Bangkok cheered in celebration.
"Keep going Thanathorn! Get out Prayut!" supporters yelled raising three fingers in the air, a gesture that has become a symbolic expression of defiance against the country's military-backed establishment.
The complaint was initially filed in June 2019, when Natthaporn Toprayoon, lawyer and former adviser to the chief ombudsman, claimed that the party broke Section 49 of the 2017 Constitution.
Moreover, Natthaporn said the party's logo, an orange inverted triangle, looks eerily similar to the symbol associated with the Illuminati, a secret society that conspiracy theorists believe seeks world control, and that the resemblance meant the two were probably linked. The FFP decried the allegations as nonsense. Natthaporn also claimed the party leader's social media posts and other publications were anti-monarchy in nature.
After the verdict, FFP leader, Thanathorn, told a group of reporters that "Future Forward will go on!"
Founded in 2018 on a pro-democracy platform, the FFP came third in last year's general election, which saw a pro-military party win the largest share of the vote amid opposition claims that the results were manipulated. The race ultimately saw Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military government leader, return to power as civilian prime minister.
Thanathorn has since emerged as a key anti-government voice while one of the FFP's goals is to reduce the military's influence in Thai politics.
The party has come under significant legal fire since its conception, with the military-backed establishment filing 28 legal cases against it and the number of legal challenges escalating during last year's general election campaign period.
Thanathorn has faced a number of charges already, ranging from sedition to cybercrime charges, and more recently for breaking election laws by holding shares in a media company while running in last year's general election. The FFP leader has denied all the charges.
FFP politician Rangsiman Rome, widely considered as one of the leading pro-democracy voices in the country, told Al Jazeera that the party "is ready for any situation" alluding to the numerous pending legal cases.
"If they try to ban [the FFP], it means that people will feel negatively towards the court," the 28-year-old said. "Even if they do ban my party, they cannot stop Thanathorn from running the campaign outside of parliament. People will understand the problem with the country even more than before. People will then know who's the real problem."
Despite winning the case, the party also faces a separate pending case which analysts say could also result in its dissolution.
[Caleb Quinley/Al Jazeera]
Thai political observers say the government views Thanathorn and his revolutionary approach as threatening to an establishment long entrenched by the military and royalist elites [Caleb Quinley/Al Jazeera]
Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political science professor at the Ubon Ratchathani University, told Al Jazeera that Tuesday's victory was unlikely to mark the end of the FFP's legal troubles.
"They will remain a target of the government and the establishment. The court case today didn't give any guarantee that they won't continue to target them," he said. "There is another case involving a loan that Thanathorn gave, that has stronger evidence to [dissolve the party]."
Titipol was referencing Thailand's Election Commission's (EC) decision to move forward with claims that the FFP violated the electoral law by accepting loans totalling 10 million Baht (approximately $330,000) from Thanathorn himself. The EC says the loans are a conflict of interest, and if found guilty, the party could be dissolved.
In November, Thanathorn lost his member of parliament status entirely.
Political observers say that the government views the FFP's approach to changing Thailand's political landscape as threatening to an establishment long entrenched by the military and royalist elites.
"I do not think that the networks of the Thai ruling elite will stop and make peace with the younger generation who think differently," said Charnvit Kasetsiri, a history professor at Thammasat University.
'Freedoms under threat'
Rights groups have said the raft of charges against the FFP is a sign of the deteriorating state of freedom of expression within the country.
Matthew Bugher, the head of the Asia Programme for Article 19, a human rights organisation, said the justice system was being "weaponised".
"The allegations against the Future Forward Party were devoid of substance, and the court had little choice but to rule in the party's favour," Bugher told Al Jazeera.
"Today's ruling should not distract from the persistent efforts to weaponise the justice system against politicians threatening the status quo. More serious challenges await the Future Forward Party. Freedom of opinion is under threat in Thailand. Politicians and activists risk jail and political exile merely by declaring their support for democratic principles and human rights."
Amnesty International has described the legal cases being filed against the FFP as a "relentless onslaught", while Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand in Human Rights Watch's Asia division, told Al Jazeera that "the state of Thailand's democracy is still hanging by a thread".
"There is a string of trumped up charges filed by ultra-royalists and cronies of the military that seek to dissolve the party, put its leadership behind bars, and ban them from politics ... Democracy is still under attack," he said.
Yet, despite the significant legal issues facing FFP, some supporters said Tuesday's court victory brought a degree of relief.
"We are so happy to hear this today, of course, we're excited," said Chamikirn Phiwla-oung. "But at the same time, we're cautious and sad that the country even looked at the case. It's nonsense from the beginning. This is just playing with the emotions of the people of Thailand."
Thailand's protesters run against 'dictatorship' (2:27)
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:57 pm Post subject:
|A Thai Opposition Party That Pushed for Democratic Reform Has Just Been Disbanded
Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit watches court proceedings with fellow members and MPs at the political partys headquarters in Bangkok on Feb. 21, 2020.
Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit watches court proceedings with fellow members and MPs at the political partys headquarters in Bangkok on Feb. 21, 2020. Lillian Suwanrumpha—AFP/Getty Images
BY AMY GUNIA
UPDATED: FEBRUARY 21, 2020 5:24 AM ET
Thailand’s popular upstart opposition party has been dissolved on Friday, after a court said it violated finance rules.
The country’s Constitutional Court ruled that a loan from co-founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to the Future Forward Party (FFP), which swept to power in 2019 elections, was illegal. The court has also ruled that members of the executive committee of the party, including Thanathorn, are banned from politics for 10 years. Future Forward Party is popular with young voters supportive of its calls for democratic reform and curtailment of military power.
Thanathorn, the scion of a car parts manufacturing company, has defended the 191.2 million baht ($6.1 million) payment he made to the party, saying it was a loan.
“Loans are not income and I already explained this to the [Election Commission] when I was summoned to give information about the lending two months ago,” he said late last year, according to local media.
Laws related to political parties in Thailand say that no one “may donate cash, assets or other benefits worth more than 10 million baht ($315,000) to a political party.”
The verdict was met by loud boos at Future Forward Party’s headquarters, where supporters had gathered on Friday to watch a screening of the verdict being read, and earlier in the day the hashtag #SaveFutureForward began trending on social media.
Duncan McCargo, the director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen, tells TIME that the ruling is a disappointing development for Thai politics.
“Six million people voted for that party,” he says. “A lot of those people already felt disenfranchised and alienated, and now they’re going to feel more so.”
Some observers say the court’s decision appears politically-motivated.
“The Future Forward Party is the latest in a long line of opposition political parties in Thailand to be banned,” Francisca Castro, a member of parliament in the Philippines and a member of the group ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), said in a statement. “It is increasingly apparent that any party which seeks to threaten the military and the establishment’s political hegemony will not be tolerated.”
Since the party’s founding in 2018, more than 25 legal cases have been brought against it and its members. Thanathorn was disqualified from his seat in parliament over allegations that he breached media shareholding rules intended to create a level playing field among political candidates. He has denied the charges, saying he had transferred the ownership of the shares before the election.
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The FFP narrowly avoided dissolution in late January when the Constitutional Court found the party not guilty in a case that alleged it had attempted to overthrow the monarchy, which is the power broker in Thailand’s government, and accused it of having links to the Illuminati, a secret society that conspiracy theorists say seeks world domination.
The party’s quick success may have lead to its downfall. Although Thailand held a general election in 2019, the military general who seized control in a 2014 military coup was installed as Prime Minister under electoral rules created under the junta’s rule. The military-led government, which is backed by the monarchy, has disbanded several pro-democracy parties in the last two decades.
“The FFP was seen as an existential threat; in many ways it stood for a set of ideas and values that were antithetical to the values of the military junta who seized power in 2014,” McCargo says.
Still, the party’s dissolution may not be spell its demise. Thanathorn has said that a new party is already being set up in preparation for Future Forward’s dissolution.
“Our hearts and souls are committed to bringing about democracy and equality in Thailand, where everyone has rights and liberty,” Thanathorn said in December, according to local media. “A party can be disbanded, but not its ideology or its resolve. If dissolved, a new one will be founded. If dissolved, we will fight on.”
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung