Thai Opposition Party Accused of Illuminati Links Faces Break Up(Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s second-biggest opposition party faces possible dissolution Tuesday in a court case that could spur more pro-democracy protests against a military-backed government.The Constitutional Court will rule on a petition that the Future Forward party and its leaders want to overthrow the monarchy, which sits at the summit of power in Thailand. One of the claims is that the party logo evokes 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 has denied the allegations, saying they are part of a crackdown on dissent by the royalist establishment after a disputed March election that ended five years of direct military rule.Coup leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha returned as premier after the poll but is a polarizing figure. Thai royalists have disbanded multiple pro-democracy political parties over the past two decades, spurring a cycle of destabilization that has contributed to slower economic growth compared with neighbors such as Indonesia and Vietnam.Political Risk“A dissolution ruling based on the Illuminati case will be difficult for the Thai people to live with,” said Paul Chambers, a politics expert at Naresuan University’s College of Asean Community Studies in northern Thailand. “This could widen the anti-government movement.”The verdict is due from about 11:30 a.m. in Bangkok. While political tension remains lower than during past episodes of bloody street unrest, thousands of people rallied last month in Bangkok against the prospect of Future Forward’s looming break up.The party finished third in the election on a platform that includes rewriting the military-backed charter, curbing the army’s influence and breaking up oligopolies.Ruling CoalitionFuture Forward’s disbandment could strengthen the ruling coalition -- which has a slim majority -- by removing a fierce critic and opening up the possibility of poaching some its lawmakers.Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a former tycoon already banned from parliament over media shareholding breaches that he denies, said in December the party and some of its officials face a slew of other cases.“One way or another the party will likely get dissolved,” said Punchada Sirivunnabood, an associate professor in politics at Mahidol University near Bangkok. “The government may become stronger in parliament, but a dissolution will also create a stronger people’s movement against it. The country will be even more divided.”King’s AuthorityAmong other allegations facing Future Forward is that Thanathorn owned publications attacked the monarchy. The petition -- made available by the party -- accuses co-founder Piyabutr Saengkanokkul of saying the monarchy should adapt to democracy.Another Constitutional Court ruling on party funding violations is pending and would also lead to dissolution if Future Forward is found guilty.King Maha Vajiralongkorn is head of state in Thailand’s constitutional monarchy and has repeatedly displayed his authority since taking the throne in 2016. The country has strict lese-majeste laws that criminalize insults against top members of the royal family.Read More: Rare Royal Thai Ceremony Caps Year When King Flexed His PowerIn October, parliament passed an emergency decree transferring some army units to Vajiralongkorn’s command. But 70 lawmakers from Future Forward voted against the motion, stunning a nation that treats top royals as semi-divine and edicts related to them as sacrosanct.Earlier this month, thousands of people joined a rally to protest against the military-backed government and call for more political freedom.A rival crowd demonstrated in favor of Prayuth, the former army chief who led the 2014 coup. He was the prime ministerial candidate for Palang Pracharath, a party carved out of the junta, which got the most votes in last year’s election.Judicial SystemNarumon Pinyosinwat, a spokeswoman for the government, said the Future Forward case is in the hands of the justice system, adding the administration plays no role in it because it’s only in charge of the executive arm.Prayuth’s opponents question the fairness of the general election under the current constitution and describe the treatment of dissenters as judicial oppression.“The prospect of increased public support for political opponents is widely believed to have motivated the government’s many attempts to persecute Future Forward party members or to dissolve the party altogether,” Amnesty International said in a statement.(Updates with expected time of verdict in the sixth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Siraphob Thanthong-Knight in Bangkok at rthanthongkn@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sunil Jagtiani at, Daniel Ten Kate, Ruth PollardFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.