Thai lawmakers from dissolved prominent opposition party to join new party

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Dozens of Thai lawmakers from a prominent opposition party that was dissolved last month said on Sunday they will join a new party together to keep their parliamentary seats.

FILE PHOTO: Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit gives a speech, at the party’s headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Thailand’s constitutional court dissolved the high-profile Future Forward Party last month, banning its executive members and leaving the rest of its lawmakers to find a new party to join within 60 days or they would lose their status.

The remaining 55 members of parliament of the disbanded party will be officially joining an existing party called Move Forward Party together next week, said Pita Limjaroenrat, who emerged as the group’s new leader.

“Our mission is to continue the ideologies and missions of the Future Forward Party,” Pita told reporters.

“Even though we have a new home, our hearts remain the same. We remain on the side of the people and democracy, stand against the junta staying in power, and drive progressive agendas.”

Little is known about Move Forward Party, which did not have a lawmaker in parliament. The Election Commission said on Friday it just changed its name early last week, possibly to prepare to receive the former Future Forward lawmakers.

The upstart Future Forward Party, hugely popular among young people, came third in last year’s messy election and initially captured 81 out of 500 parliamentary seats but lost many lawmakers through defections and political bans along the way.

The party had been a thorn in the pro-military government’s side since before the March 2019 general election that saw the junta chief, who seized power in 2014, reinstalled as a civilian prime minister.

Future Forward’s charismatic leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, had his lawmaker status suspended a day before the opening of parliament in May and then officially disqualified in November for holding shares in a media company.

Thailand’s constitutional court dealt the final blow last month by dissolving the party, ruling that it had broken election law by taking a loan from its founder, Thanathorn.

Thanathorn vowed to continue to oppose the government “on the ground”, alongside his former colleagues in parliament.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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