Thai former PM hopeful hit with more legal trouble

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A Thai court today handed suspended sentences to former prime ministerial hopeful Pita Limjaroenrat and seven other political figures for holding an unlawful rally in 2019.

The cases add to the legal trouble facing the opposition Move Forward Party after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that the party has undermined the monarchy, and national security amid its campaign to amend a law protecting the monarchy from criticism.

The Pathumwan district court in Bangkok gave a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 2 years, and a fine of 11 200 baht ($313.81) to six leading figures of the now-defunct Future Forward Party, the Move Forward’s party predecessor and two other activists, their lawyer Krisadang Nutcharus said.

The charges related to a protest they led that was joined by thousands of supporters in December 2019 in the Thai capital.

The eight people sentenced, including business executive Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and member of parliament Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, all plan to appeal the verdict, their lawyer said.

Pita could be disqualified from parliament if his appeal fails and the court upholds the verdict. Thai law does not allow people convicted of serious crimes to hold parliamentary seats. The party now faces potential dissolution and its executives banned from politics after lawyers and opponents launched more legal challenges in the wake of the constitutional court ruling.

Move Forward is the biggest party in parliament after its surprise win in last year’s election on an anti-establishment platform, which included undoing business monopolies and curbing the military’s entrenched political influence.

The party’s liberal agenda and huge appeal among young and urban voters represent a threat to the status quo in Thailand, and its attempts to form a government last year were blocked by the appointed senate, aligned with the royalist conservative pro-military establishment.