IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARCH 11, 2019
Southeast Asia’s Democratic Network, FORSEA, condemns the Thai Constitutional Court’s dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party and urges the judicial body to rescind its anti-democratic ruling
FORSEA, a cross-national body of Southeast Asian democrats, activists and rights campaigners, condemn the ruling by Thailand’s Constitutional Court (dated March 7, 2019) to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart Party for its nomination of Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
The nominee is the oldest sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, a widely unpopular king who succeeded his late father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016 after a long reign of 70 years.
Ubolratana is the oldest daughter of the late king and gave up her royal titles when she married an American in 1972. Her participation in Thailand electoral politics was in her capacity as a non-royal, or an ordinary Thai citizen.
Rather fraudulently, the court however, reasoned that the Thai monarchy must be above politics and that any member of royal family entering electoral party politics would affect the neutrality of the royal institution. Specifically, it ordered the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart Party by arguing that the monarchy was misused by the party for the partisan electoral gains ahead of the country’s general elections scheduled to be held on March 24, a misuse of the monarchy which has destroyed the status of the institution in Thai society.
Additionally, the court also barred the party’s top executives from founding new political parties for ten years and disqualified over 280 candidates from Thai Raksa Chart Party from the upcoming elections.
“The Constitutional Court’s judgment is rather severe, politically motivated and highly disproportionate,” said Professor Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a leading exiled scholar of Thai politics, at Kyoto University and FORSEA co-founder. He continues, “the judgment was primarily driven by the monarchy itself: the royal family has continued to play an active role in Thai electoral politics.”
He pointed out that the court’s judgment was meted out with complete unanimity among the judges, hence an indication that the Constitutional Court is beholden to the powerful and meddlesome monarchy, while disregarding the democratic dividends for the public which would accrue from a member of the royal family acting as a democrat.
The Constitutional Court in Thailand is correctly viewed by the public as highly politicised. In its latest ruling against a leading political party, the court fails to meet the international standards spelled out by the United Nations guidelines on “Prohibition and Dissolution of Political Parties and Analogous Measures”. The guidelines stipulate that no political party must be disbanded except in cases where such political parties incite violence as a means to overthrow a democratic system.
FORSEA shares the expert and popular opinion that the court’s dissolution ruling is anti-democratic. The order to disband Thai Raksa Chart Party has directly affected basic political rights and freedoms of the Thai people.
Dr Maung Zarni, General Secretary of FORSEA and a long-time Burmese rights activist, comments, “the Thai Raksa Chart ruling sheds light on the role of the Thai royal family and their continued manipulation of the judicial branch of the constitutional monarchy: they impose severe restrictions on the peaceful association and expression of the political opposition.” He continues, “in complying with the whims and interests of the Thai monarchy, the Constitutional Court has acted as an instrument of the monarchy, rather than serving as an integral part of the checks and balances essential to any functioning democracy, not unlike the Burmese judiciary in the military-controlled Burma, with the civilian façade of Aung San Suu Kyi.”
FORSEA urges the Constitutional Court to rescind its March 7 ruling and re-prioritise its commitment in upholding justice and fairness in Thai electoral politics, rather than active as an anti-democratic weapon of the monarchy.
March 11, 2019
Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun +81 90 8449 9694
Dr Maung Zarni +44 (0) 771 047 3322