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February 2020 : CC Ruling to Disband FFP

  • CC ruling to disband FFP
  • Full version G-2-G rice pledge verdict disclosed
  • Cabinet approved 30,000 EM bands for inmates
  • Cabinet approved amendment bill on anti-terrorism
  • Cabinet approved draft bill on food
  • CC ruling on the proxy voting of MPs
  • House voted to pass 2020 Budget Bill
  • Senate passed 2020 Budget Bill
  • Bt. 20 billion loan to cover 2020 fiscal deficit
  • CC ruling: Abortion unconstitutional

    CC ruling to disband FFP

           On 21 February, the Constitutional Court (CC) voted 7:2 to dissolve the Future Forward Party (FFP) and banned its executives from politics for 10 years for receiving 191.2 million baht loans from its party leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit. The Election Commission had sought the courts ruling in regarding to Section 92 paragraph one (3) and Section 72 of the Political Act B.E. 2560.

          The court was attended by Thai and foreign media, observers from international agencies, and representatives from the US, UK, EU and Federation of Germany embassies. No FFP members, its lawyer and supporters were presented at the court.

          The court ruling was based on 4 points:
    1. Whether the EC is eligible to launch the petition in regards to Section 92 of the Political Party Act?
    2. Whether the action violates the Political Party Act?
    3. Should the partys executives be banned from election running?
    4. If the partys executives being banned from election running, could they form or sit in board of a new political party?

          The court found, from personal and documents evidences, that FFP has submitted its 2018 financial budget on 3 October and 31 December 2018, to the political party registrar, that it had 71 million baht income and 72.6 million baht expenditure, making a deficit of 1.4 million baht. The party has borrowed 161.2 million baht, at 7.5 % interest rate, to be paid every month. Later, the 161.2 million baht principle had been repaid in three periods; 1. On 4 January 2019, 14.2 million baht, 2. On 21 January 2019, 8 million baht, and 3. On 29 January 2019, 50 million baht. Making a total repayment of 72 million baht into the bank account at Thai Summit branch.

          Later on, the FFP borrowed another 30 million baht, of 2% interest, from Mr. Thanathorn and received a principle of 2.7 million baht on the day the contract signed. Mr. Thanathorn admitted the contract was revised from a monthly interest payment to annually. He also donated 8.8 million baht to the party. A financial record showed a 5.8 million baht was paid for interest and penalty for late payment and 1.4 million baht for interest and penalty.

          The Constitutional Court ruled:

          1. The EC is authorized to launch a petition and the political party registrar had investigated and collected evidences submitted to the court and the court is also authorized to accept the petition.

          2. The intension of the constitution and political party act are to prevent anyone with financial advantages to influence over or controlling the party, therefor, donation is limited to a maximum of 10 million baht per donator per year. On the issue of whether a loan is a donation or not, the party is a public organization so what is not allowed in the law was prohibited. Since the party accepted income (loan) from a source other than those listed under Section 66 on donations, the party executives should have known it was other income which can influence a party against the intention of the law. The court also noted irregularities in the loans. It pointed out the loans carried interest rates that were lower than market rates which offered privileges to the party and the second loan was extended even when the party had yet to repay the first. Besides, the party took out the second loan even though it was only 1 million baht in the red in its balance sheets. In addition, the party repaid 14 million baht to the lender within two days of borrowing it.

          The court viewed the lending allowed the lender to have influence over the party, and made the party a political business, while the actions indicate it was not normal borrowing and was more than an attempt to evade the limit on donations under Section 66 at the expense of other parties.

          By establishing the party and its executives violating the donation limit, the court concluded the money was from an illegitimate source under Section 94, which required the partys dissolution.
                 1. The party disbandment, on violation of Section 72 of the political party donation, led to banning of executives, on 2 January and 11 April 2019, the dates loan contracts signed, from running election for 10 years.

                 2.The former executives are barred from forming/registration or becoming political party executives for 10 years after the court ruling.

          The partys board at the time were 16 members, 11 won party list seats and were MPs, they were:
    1. Piyabutr Saengkanokkkul, Secretary-General.
    2. Kunthida Rungruengkiat, Deputy Leader.
    3. Chamnan Chanruang.
    4. Lt. Gen. Pongsakorn Rodchampoo, former Deputy Leader.
    5. Pannika Wanich, spokesperson.
    6. Klaikonaidhyakarn.
    7. Niraman Sulaiman.
    8. Yaowalux Wongpraparat.
    9. Surachai Srisarakham.
    10. Janevit Kraisin.
    11. Jaruwan Saranket.

          And 5 others who are not MPs:
    1. Nitipat Taemphairojana, Treasurer.
    2. Chan Phakdisri.
    3. Sunthon Bunyod.
    4. Ronnawit Lorlertsoonthorn, Deputy Leader.
    5. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Party Leader.

          One day before the verdict delivered, Piyabutr posted on his Facebook, on 20 February, that MPs of the German Bundestag Mr. Peter Ramsauer, Mr. Markus Frohnmaier and Ms. Helin Evrim Sommer together with H.E. Mr. Georg Schmidt the German Ambassador to Thailand had made a visit to his party. They exchanged views on working experiences, practices and expressed concerns on human rights, laws and development particularly on the religious and racial diversity.

          Following the court ruling, the EU Spokesperson made a statement on the dissolution on 21 February:

          Todays dissolution of Future Forward, one of the main opposition parties, is a set-back for political pluralism in Thailand. The Party won more than 6 million votes in the March 2019 general election.

          Dissolving political parties or banning Members of Parliament runs counter to the process of restoring pluralism initiated last year. Political space in Thailand should remain open.

          It is important that the authorities ensure that all legitimately elected Members of Parliament are able to continue fulfilling their parliamentary mandates, irrespective of the party from the list of which they were elected.

          The European Union stands ready to broaden its engagement with Thailand, including on issues of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic pluralism, as underlined by the EU Foreign Affairs Council in its Conclusions of 14 October 2019

          On February 22, the US embassy issued a statement on the FFP dissolution expressing its concern over the disbandment of FFP:

           The United States strongly supports democratic governance around the world, and appreciates Thailand recent seating of a democratically elected government. While the United States does not favor or support any particular political party in Thailand, more than six million voters chose the Future forward Party in the March 24 elections. The decision to disband the party risks disenfranchising those voters and raises questions about their representation within Thailand electoral system.

          On 23 February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement regarding the Dissolution of the Future Forward Party:

           1. Thailand noted the interest of some countries in a legal offense case which led to the dissolution of the Future Forward Party by the ruling of Constitutional Court on 21 February 2020.

          2. Such ruling was carried out within the countrys constitutional process, in accordance with the constitutional law and the Organic Law on Political Parties B.E. 2560 (2017), without prejudice to the nature of offense and its perpetrators. It should also be noted in this context that the constitution did pass the referendum and served as the guiding legal principle for all political parties that participated in the previous general election.

          3. While remaining committed to strengthening democratic values and political pluralism, we trust all friends of Thailand would, in full respect of our sovereignty, render usual support to the exercise of the countrys supreme law of the land just as we do in reciprocity with all members of the international community.

          On 25 February, the Senates committee on Foreign Affairs released a statement on international concerns over the dissolution of Future Forward Party that might impact on international relations that the Constitutional Court ruling is in accordance to the Rule of Law and other laws including the constitution mandated by the referendum. The Organic Law on Political Parties B.E. has objectives to frame and clarify the relevant process in which one of its objectives is to prevent anyone to gain influence over by limiting donations from party benefactors to 10 million baht per person per year. Penalties for violating the law range from a fine to the political party being disbanded.

          Mr. Thanathorn stated to the media, on 21 February, after the verdict delivered that he would establish a Future Forward Group with objectives to gather people interested to participate in politics. Mr. Piyabutr also said he would motivate political campaign countrywide to change the society.

          For those MPs of the dissolved FFP, their parliamentary membership shall continue by joining any political party, including a new party, anticipating to be headed by party list dissolved FFP MP Picha Limchareonrat.

          Started on 21 February, the wave of students demonstrations began and continuing as more universities and high schools use social media and twitter to organize their own rallies in call for justice and democracy. It was feared that this could lead to a street-demonstration again since Thailand is facing 3 significant threats; economic stagnation, COVID-19 epidemic and the dissolution of FFP.

    G-2-G rice pledge verdict released

           On 3 February the Royal Gazette website published a full version, 132 pages, of the Rice Pledge verdict. For information please check: http://www.ratchakitcha.soc.go.th/DATA/PDF/2563/A/010/T_0007.PDF

    Cabinet approved 30,000 EM bands for inmates

           On 4 February, the cabinet approved a budget 877.26 million baht for procuring 30,000 Electronic Monitoring (EM) bands. The cabinet also approved a cancelled of former contract of 4,000 devices, cost 151.20 million baht, on their flaw.

           The devices would be tagged to inmates as part of their bails or probation conditions. They are a form of electronic surveillance.

    Cabinet approved anti-terrorism amendment bill

           On 4 February, the cabinet approved a draft amendment bill on anti-terrorism with principles to exclude a few sections overlapping with other laws and designates authorities of the officials in detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorist incidents. Authorities will be empowered in the preventing and suppressing terrorism.

    Cabinet approved food draft bill

           On 4 February, the cabinet approved a draft bill on food with principle to include culinary in one among the controlled professions. A committee will be appointed to responsible in registration, licensing/ revoking license, and designate qualifications of the culinarians. Professional culinarians must have certificates/degrees from the institutions recognized educational institutions.

    CC ruling on the MP proxy voting

           On 7 February, the Constitutional Court disclosed its ruling on 2 cases submitted by the President of the House of Reps. Chuan Leekpai, on 5 February 2020, one from the government and another from the opposition parties, requesting the court to make a decision on the validation of the 2020 Fiscal Budget Bill due to three MPs had used the voting cards of absent MPs to cast votes on their behalf during the passage of the legislation in Agenda 2 and 3.

           The court has ruled 5-4 the bill is partially constitutional and ordered MPs to vote again on the second and third reading during which the proxy voting was found.

           The court said in a statement issued after the ruling that proxy voting violates the one MP-one-vote principle in the charter and House regulations, and actions must be taken against the wrongdoers according to the related laws.

           The court said its focus on the case was the process. It found the first reading went smoothly and was therefore constitutional. However, proxy voting took place in the second and third readings during January 10-11, making this part of the process unconstitutional.

           Besides there is an urgent need for budget disbursement and the new Constitutional Court law allows it to prescribe actions to be taken.

           The court therefore decided the House vote again on the second and third readings. After that, the Senate will be asked to vote again on the bill. The House must report back to the court within 30 days.

           As for the widely watched issue of possible double standards, the court explained the circumstances were different.

           During the vote on the 2-trillion-baht borrowing bill for infrastructure projects, a key platform of the Yingluck Shinawatra government, a Pheu Thai MP was found using more than one voting card. The court at the time, nullified the bill.

           The court at the time ruled that proxy voting breached the one-MP-one-vote principle in the 2007 constitution in effect then. The same clause is in the 2017 constitution (Section 120).

    House of Reps. passed Budget draft bill B.E. 2563

           On 13 February, the Hose of Representatives held an extraordinary meeting to consider the Fiscal Budget bill B.E. 2563 and consecutively voted on the second and third round to pass the bill on the third one with 257 to 1 and 3 abstentions.

           After the meeting started, MPs of the opposition parties walked out and abstained from voting before the consideration began.

    Senate unanimously passed the budget bill

           On 14 February, the Senate held a meeting and voted to pass the Fiscal Budget bill B.E. 2563 with 215 to 0 and 6 abstain.

           The fiscal budget for 2020 is 3.2 trillion baht.

    Bt. 20 billion loans to cover deficit

           On 18 February, the Royal Gazette published the loans term finalized arrangement for 20 billion baht between the Finance Ministry and two local banks, the Government Saving Bank and Krungthai Bank, over a period of one and a half years, to cover the 2019 fiscal deficit to be tied over for this year.

    CC ruling: Abortion unconstitutional

           On 19 February, the Constitutional Court has ruled a section on abortion of the Criminal Code is unconstitutional because it breaches the principles of equality and liberty.

           The court also ordered the section and a related one be amended to make then in line with the 2017 constitution.

           The ruling came after Srisamai Chueachart petitioned the court to rule whether the laws on abortion- Sections 301 and 305- are in conflict with provisions on rights and liberties under the charter.

           Section 301 of the Criminal Code punishes a woman who has terminated a pregnancy by herself or allowed another person to do it with three years in jail and / or a fine up to 60,000 baht.

           The court ruled the section violates Section 27 or 28 of the 2017 Constitution, which endorse equal rights between men and women, as well as the right and liberty of everyone in his/her life and person.

           Section 305 of the Criminal Code exempts the offence under Section 301 for medical reasons and for doctors who perform it. The exceptions are a pregnancy that poses a physical or mental health threat to the mother, girls younger than 15 years old who have been raped and fetuses with fatal abnormalities.

           On this section, the court ruled the section does not violate the charter.

           On whether related laws should be amended and how, the court ruled Section 301 and 305 should be rewritten to be in compliance with the highest law

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