Thailand’s second-biggest opposition party escaped dissolution on Tuesday after being acquitted of seeking to oust the monarchy.
The Constitutional Court in Bangkok ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to back up the accusation against the Future Forward party.
The monarchy sits at the summit of power in Thailand and top royals are treated as semi-divine.
Televised images showed the court verdict triggered celebrations at Future Forward’s headquarters in Bangkok. The reprieve may be short lived as the party faces other cases, including one on funding violations that would lead to dissolution if it is found guilty.
One of the claims in the petition before the court was that Future Forward’s logo evoked the secret Illuminati sect “believed to be behind the unseating of monarchies in Europe.”
The term “Illuminati” traces back hundreds of years and has become a watchword for discredited conspiracy theories about secretive groups trying to control world affairs.
Future Forward denied the allegations, describing them as part of a crackdown on dissent by supporters of the military-backed government after a disputed March election.
The party finished third in the poll — which ended five years under a junta — on a platform that included rewriting the current constitution, curbing the army’s influence and breaking up oligopolies.
“We’ll continue our work both in the parliament and outside of the parliament,” party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who is banned from the legislature, said after the verdict. Co-founder Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said Future Forward had no intention of overthrowing the constitutional monarchy.
“There’s now a high likelihood that the party will be disbanded in the next case,” said Punchada Sirivunnabood, an
associate professor in politics
at Mahidol University near Bangkok.
“The big question is what the party will do after that.”
Thai royalists have disbanded multiple pro-democracy political parties over the past two decades, spurring a cycle of destabilisation that contributed to slower economic growth compared with neighbours such as Indonesia and Vietnam.
While political tension remains lower than during past episodes of bloody street unrest, thousands of people rallied in Bangkok in December against the prospect of Future Forward’s break up.
Narumon Pinyosinwat, a spokeswoman for the government, said the Future Forward case was in the hands of the justice system, adding the administration played no role in it because it’s only in charge of the executive arm.
Former junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha returned as premier after last year’s election but is a polarising figure. Thousands of people joined another rally earlier this month to protest against his ruling coalition and call for more political freedom.
A rival crowd demonstrated in favour of Prayuth, who used to be army chief and led the 2014 military takeover.