February 1, 2024
BANGKOK – The nine Constitutional Court judges voted unanimously that Pita and Move Forward’s election campaigns, by proposing to sponsor a bill to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code, had violated Article 49 of the Constitution.
The court ruled that the election campaigns were unconstitutional and an effort to topple the democratic system of government with the King as the head of state.
The case against Pita and Move Forward was filed by Theerayuth Suwankesorn, a lawyer known for his defence of Suwit Thongprasert, an ex-activist monk formerly known as Phra Buddha Isara.
Theerayuth’s suit named Pita the first defendant and Move Forward the second defendant.
The court ordered Pita and the party to stop seeking to annul or amend Article 112 either through speech or writing or any other way of expression immediately, as demanded by Theerayuth’s suit.
Although Theerayuth’s suit did not ask the court to disband the party, the ruling was seen as providing a cause for Move Forward’s opponents to ask the Election Commission to seek the party’s dissolution later.
Political observers expect the opponents would ask the EC to invoke Article 92 of the Political Parties Act to ask the court to disband Move Forward.
Under Article 92 of the act, if the court finds any political party guilty of seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, the EC can gather evidence and petition the Constitutional Court to consider dissolving the party and banning its executives from elections for 10 years.
The nine Constitutional Court judges sat on the bench from 9.30am to read individual judges’ opinions before they voted and compiled a joint ruling that was read out in the afternoon.
The full bench of nine judges announced their joint, unanimous verdict at 2.15pm and the verdict gave a lengthy explanation on why the court had reached the decision.
The verdict stated that the court had accepted the case in June last year and the judges had used the inquiry method to try the case by seeking evidence and opinions from witnesses of both sides.
The court noted that the defendants had asked for two extensions of the trial and the court had held a total of 62 hearings in the case and invited four non-partisan legal experts to express their opinions.
The court named the four legal experts as Assoc Prof Ronnakorn Boonmee, Prof Withit Mantaporn, Assoc Prof Phuri Fuwongcharoen, and Assoc Prof Supamit Pitipat.
The court added it also read opinions from representatives of the National Intelligence Agency, the Royal Thai Police, the National Security Council, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Court of Justice, the Criminal Court, the South Bangkok Criminal Court, the Taling Chan District Criminal Court, the Nonthaburi Court and the Samut Prakan Court.
The judges said that their ruling was based on a range of comprehensive opinions and the court also let both sides make closing statements.
The court said Pita and Move Forward had proposed a bill to amend Article 112 on March 25, 2022 and used Article 112 as a campaign issue. The verdict said the court saw the proposed amendment and the election campaigns as actions detrimental to the democratic system with the King as the head of state.
The court reasoned that although Article 112 is a part of the Criminal Code, it has the status of a law for protecting the state’s security.
The court said any attempt to alter Article 112 would be an offence against state security and any offence towards the monarchy would be deemed as violating national security as well.
The judges said that Move Forward’s amendment efforts were aimed at belittling the monarchy. The court noted that the bill’s goal to separate defamation against the monarchy from national security would be an effort to separate the monarchy from the nation and this would significantly affect the state security.
Even worse, the court said, the use of Article 112 to launch election campaigns was tantamount to dragging the monarchy, which is supposed to be above politics, into politics.
The court said that Pita and Move Forward had carried out their election campaigns without taking into account the principle that the King must be above politics and must be political non-partisan.
The court saw that the election campaigns that way intended to erode the public faith in the monarchy and undermine the institution.
The verdict said although Pita and Move Forward had right of expression, the use of such rights must not compromise national security and affect the law and order and other people’s rights.
The court said if Pita and Move Forward were allowed to continue their efforts to amend Article 112, their actions would eventually come close to the efforts to topple the constitutional monarchy.
As a result, the defendants must immediately cease using their rights to seek to annul and amend Article 112 through unlawful methods.