Constitutional Court dismisses complaint against three parties over mock referendum

The Constitutional Court has dismissed a complaint filed against the Move Forward party, the Fair Party, and the Prachachat Party over a mock referendum on the right to self-determination held by a student group at the Prince of Songkla University.

The complaint was filed by lawyer Nattaporn Toprayoon, who accused the three parties of treason for wanting to amend the Constitution and for being involved in activities held by what he said were separatist groups campaigning for independence.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the three parties’ campaign to amend the Constitution is lawful, and that there is no evidence that members of the parties were involved in treason or separatist movements.

The complaint against the three parties were filed after the Patanian Student Movement (Pelajar Bangsa), a student activist group at the Prince of Songkla University’s Patani campus, held a mock referendum on self-determination in June 2023.

The mock referendum was believed by right-wing groups to be about the independence of the three Deep South provinces from Thailand. However, Akrom Waba, Pelajar Bangsa’s vice president, said that the mock referendum did not ask whether participants want independence but whether they agreed with the right to self-determination and allowing citizens in the Deep South to legally conduct an independence referendum. He also stressed that the activity was not a legally-binding referendum, and that they did not talk about separation during the event.

He said that the event was held on campus, where he believes they have the academic freedom to discuss such issues, and that members of the three parties were invited to join the event because they were seen as democratic and supported by locals. Although several of the group’s members were related to local politicians, Akrom insisted that they organised the event on their own, without anyone’s influence.

Nattaporn, a staunch royalist, is a former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman and has previously acted as a lawyer for the PAD, the Thai Patriots Network and other right-wing groups. He previously filed a complaint accusing monarchy reform advocates of treason, and has filed a complaint in June 2019 accusing the now-dissolved Future Forward Party of being linked to the Illuminati, a fictitious secret organisation believed by conspiracy theorists to be seeking world domination. He has also accused Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, former Secretary-General of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, of sedition in relation to an online discussion about the burning of a royal portrait.

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