By Julia Musto
Published December 14, 2019
In the capital city of Bangkok, the 41-year-old billionaire leader of "Future Forward," Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, urged his followers to stand up against their government and fight for democracy.
"This is just the beginning," Thanathorn said. "I think it shows that people will not tolerate dictatorship anymore."
Many demonstrators held up a three-finger salute to show their support -- a symbol of resistance from Hollywood blockbuster "The Hunger Games."
A Fast Forward spokeswoman claimed more than 10,000 people had taken part in Saturday's demonstration, but authorities have not provided a figure.
Earlier in the year, in the first general election since a coup led by current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Future Forward came out of nowhere to finish third. Their progressive, anti-military agenda has found support among its young base but has angered the country's conservative establishment, known as the junta.
However, legal moves to dissolve Future Forward have irritated the group's advocates, who believe there's a conspiracy against it.
Since the election, the party has faced a string of legal cases, and last month the Constitutional Court stripped Thanathorn of his lawmaker status, ruling that he violated a regulation on media ownership.
Just this past Wednesday, the Election Commission ruled that Future Forward had broken the law by accepting an illegal loan from Thanathorn and recommended it be dissolved. Few people expect the Constitutional Court, which is viewed as in step with the country's establishment, to disagree.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok earlier in the month, Thanathorn said that the cases against him were "irrelevant" compared with an effort by the government to not allow "peaceful transitions through democracy to happen."
"Nobody knows what could happen when people lost faith in the parliament system, where there is no hope left, where there is no possibility to win the power peacefully," he remarked. "The establishment, the junta, they seem certain that they could contain it, that they could control it. But, many think otherwise. Many I talked to are not convinced. I think this is a very dangerous gamble."
Thanathorn's party seeks to amend the constitution to make it more democratic. While under junta rule, the government pushed through a new constitution which afforded more power to the military, the courts, and to senior bureaucrats at the expense of elected officeholders.