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NCPO denies suit targets Future Forward leaders 

THE RULING National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday denied that a lawsuit being brought against Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit was another case of discrimination, as it reacted to widespread criticism of anti-junta parties being targeted ahead of the election next month.

Another anti-junta party, Thai Raksa Chart, last week faced legal action, which could lead to its dissolution. Future Forward leader Thanathorn will now face court next week. Thanathorn, along with two other party executives, have been accused of entering false information into the computer system after they criticised the junta on their online livestream “Return Friday to the People” – a parody on the Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha’s televised monologue “Return Happiness to the People” programme.
Future Forward made public on Wednesday night the lawsuit being brought against the party. They encouraged their supporters to show support through online posts with the hashtag #SaveThanathorn, as the party leader could be jailed on February 27 if ordered by the attorney general.
Numerous netizens viewed it as a mistreatment of the anti-junta camp and dubbed the lawsuit as another attempt by the junta to eliminate its rivals from the fray with the election only weeks away.
Thanathorn and his Future Forward Party are popular among young and progressive voters. Observers are also speculating that if Thai Raksa Chart Party were to be dissolved, some of their supporters could transfer their votes to Future Forward, seen as another pillar in the anti-junta camp. NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree insisted yesterday that due legal process was being followed. The NCPO has not done anything to expedite the procedure, he said. 
Thanathorn, Klaikong Vaidhyakarn and Charuwan Sarankate have been charged with violating the computer crime law, as they criticised the junta’s move to recruit former MPs of other parties to its party.
Winthai said the computer crime law is a normal law, and was not one created by the NCPO in order to attack a particular group of people. The spokesman also explained that Thanathorn and the two others had accused the Thai justice system of becoming a political tool. It was an act to undermine the justice system of the country, he said. 
Thanathorn yesterday took part in an election rally in Bangkok as usual and was welcomed warmly, especially by younger voters. He told reporters he had no worries about the lawsuit and remained high-spirited for the election rally. 
“If I really get jailed, other members in the party are more than ready to carry out the work and the election campaign,” Thanathorn said. “These include [deputy leader] Piyabutr Saengkanonkul and [spokesman] Pannika Wanich.”

Published : February 21, 2019