World

Thailand court disbands popular party

Supporters of Thailand's Future Forward Party cry as they watch a live television broadcast of a court verdict at their party's headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. Thailand's Constitutional Court on Friday ordered the popular opposition Future Forward Party dissolved, declaring that it violated election law by accepting a loan from its leader. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe
Supporters of Thailand's Future Forward Party cried as they watch a live television broadcast of a court verdict at their party's headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.

BANGKOK — Thailand’s most dynamic political force in years was ordered disbanded Friday by the country’s Constitutional Court, in a ruling that rights groups say is part of a pattern of judicial harassment aimed at smothering democracy.

The Future Forward Party was found to have violated a law governing political parties by accepting a loan from its young tycoon leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, to fund an electoral campaign.

Other political parties have taken out loans without any legal ramifications.

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For a country where the same politicians and army generals have dominated politics for decades, the Future Forward Party offered something fresh.

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In elections last year, the first since an army coup in 2014, all of Future Forward’s candidates were first-time entrants. The party didn’t even exist a year before the elections.

Despite its neophyte status, the progressive opposition force surged to a third-place finish in the elections, capturing 81 of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives. (It now has 76.)

But the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Friday has blunted Future Forward’s future, even if the party re-forms with a new name.

New York Times