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Four high-profile political cases will be the subject of court hearings next week. They have the potential to decide the fate of Thailand and include petitions to dismiss Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and to dissolve the progressive Move Forward Party.

Among the four cases, three fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court: PM Srettha’s dismissal, the Move Forward Party dissolution, and a case involving the ongoing Senate election. The fourth is former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s royal defamation case, which was initiated by the Office of General-Attorney in the criminal court. Hearings in these cases are all scheduled for 18 June.

PM Srettha’s dismissal case

The Court said in its statement on Wednesday (12 June) that it ordered the PM to submit evidence by next Monday (17 June) and will conduct a hearing the following day.

Srettha is alleged to have breached the Constitution by appointing to a cabinet position Pichit Chuenban, a person with a prior criminal conviction. The petition was filed by a group of 40 caretaker senators in May, seeking the removal of both Srettha and Pichit from their positions. The Senators alleged that the PM was aware of Pichit’s criminal record but still insisted on appointing him, so the PM’s action was deemed unconstitutional.

Pichit, whom Srettha appointed as Minister Attached to the PM’s Office, was jailed for 2 years for contempt of court in 2008 and had his law license suspended for 5 years after he allegedly attempted to bribe Supreme Court officials with 2 million baht hidden in a paper bag while he was representing former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his ex-wife Potjaman Na Pombejra in the Ratchadaphisek land case.

Pichit announced his resignation on Tuesday (21 May).

The Court is not expected to reach its final judgement in next week’s hearing.

Move Forward Party dissolution case

The Constitutional Court will hear the case seeking the dissolution of the MFP due to its campaign promise to amend the royal defamation law.

The petition was filed by the Election Commission (EC) which decided to file the petition to the Constitutional Court after the Constitutional Court itself ruled on 31 January that the campaign by the MFP and its former leader Pita Limjaroenrat to amend the royal defamation law is treasonous. The Constitutional Court accepted the petition.

Before the Court reconvenes on 18 June, it has ordered the EC to submit evidence in support of its petition by next Monday (17 June).

The MFP previously submitted its defence on 4 June. On Sunday (9 June), the Party held a press conference explaining this, despite warnings from the Court not to discuss the case. Former Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat noted that the Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction over the petition since the Constitution does not give it the authority to dissolve political parties.

Party leader Chaithawat Tulathon said on Thursday (13 June) that the party will file more evidence with the Court, including a recording of an interview given by the Chair of the EC saying that the EC has not followed its own procedure in seeking the party’s dissolution.

The Court has not set a date for the verdict or ruled whether to hold a hearing.

Senate election law case

The Constitutional Court on 18 June will also pass judgment on two petitions forwarded by the Central Administrative Court, seeking a ruling on whether the 2018 Organic Act on the Acquisition of Senators violates the Constitution.

The first petition was filed by a Senate candidate who sought the Court’s ruling on whether Articles 36, 40, 41 and 42 of the law violate Article 107 of the Constitution. The second petition, filed by another 5 Senate candidates, also sought the Court’s ruling on these Articles.

These Articles relate to the Senate election process.

Article 36 states that a candidate may introduce themselves following the procedures and conditions set by the EC and others who are not candidates may assist candidates in their introduction under specified conditions.

Articles 40, 41, and 42 govern the Senate election at district, provincial, and national levels. The candidates selected at the district and provincial levels within each group may cast votes for up to 2 and 10 candidates respectively within the same group. They may vote for themselves but are prohibited from casting more than one vote for any single candidate.

It is anticipated that if the Court rules that any of these Articles breaches the Constitution, it could prompt a further petition to nullify the ongoing Senate election, thereby prolonging the caretaker Senate’s term.

Former PM Thaksin’s royal defamation case

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) will formally indict former PM Thaksin Shinawatra for royal defamation.

The OAG on 29 May announced that it had issued an order to indict the former PM under the royal defamation law and the Computer Crime Act over his 2015 interview concerning the monarchy given to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

The OAG received the complaint from the Technology Crime Suppression Division in 2016. At the time, Thaksin had gone into exile and did not appear in court. The OAG decided to indict him as charged and issued an arrest warrant. The statute of limitations in this case is 15 years.

However, the prosecutor could not file the charges as scheduled on 29 May because Thaksin was not able to attend due to a COVID-19 infection.  The indictment hearing was rescheduled for 18 June. 

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