Banned Thai billionaire politician vows to press fight for democracy

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Thai billionaire whose opposition party, critical of the military establishment, was dissolved last month said on Friday he will form a new movement to work outside parliament after being banned from politics for 10 years.

Students have protested daily in universities across the country since the Constitutional Court dissolved the Future Forward Party, which came third in last year’s general election with more than six million votes.

The court ruled that the party had broken the law by taking a 191 million baht ($6 million) loan from its founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The action against Future Forward took place less than a year after Thailand held the election to end direct military rule, strengthening the position in parliament of a coalition led by Prime Minister Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former junta leader who took power in a 2014 coup.

Thanathorn, who was banned from running for political office or becoming a member of a party for 10 years, said he would continue his political struggle by forming the “Future Forward Movement” to promote local elections.

“We will campaign in universities, we will campaign in communities, we will campaign in trade unions… We will do it online, offline, we will do on the ground, there are many different battlegrounds,” Thanathorn said.

He said the movement would work along side his former colleagues in parliament who were not banned by the court. They in turn were planning to form a new party, he said.

The Future Forward Party initially captured 81 out of 500 parliamentary seats in last year’s election but has lost many lawmakers through defections and political bans.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; editing by Nick Macfie)