Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Thailand's constitutional court ordered a pro-democracy party dissolved, citing an "illegal" loan from its party leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
Thanathorn, a vocal opposition leader of the Future Forward Party who led anti-government protests in central Bangkok last year, is charged with making a donation of about $6 million to his party, an act that is in violation of local laws, the Thai court said.
The loan is being ruled as an illicit donation under Thailand's Political Parties Act, which limits political donations to about $316,000 a year, the Bangkok Post reported Friday.
Thanathorn and 15 other party executives are also banned from politics for 10 years, including secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and spokeswoman Pannika Wanich.
Bangkok's Constitutional Court also said Thailand's Election Commission could take criminal action against party executives. A conviction for Thanathorn could mean a five-year prison sentence, according to the report.
Thanathorn's party gained prominence following Thailand's general elections in March 2019, when it gained 6.3 million votes. It was the third-largest party in the country before it was dissolved on Friday.
Thanathorn, 41, is an heir to a car parts business, according to the BBC.
In December, Thanathorn and other opposition parliamentarians, were charged with blocking a train station, failing to control protesters and using loudspeakers in public without permission during an anti-government rally.
Thanathorn has been critical of military rule of Thailand, which has continued uninterrupted since 2014. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha was re-elected this year, but opponents including Future Forward have questioned the fairness of polls.
Prayut has maintained power through political coalitions.
Seksan Anantasirikiat, a researcher with KlangPanya Institute for National Strategies, previously told UPI the prime minister, also the former chief of the military's junta, has the support of the majority of Bangkok's middle class, Thai tycoons and military commanders.
Control of street protests has also contributed to the stability of his administration, according to Seksan.
Former Future Forward party members are expected to defect to coalition and opposition parties. Thanathorn had said in a previous interview the movement will continue.
"If they dissolve our party, there will be two paths running in parallel -- one is a new party in parliament, running under a new name but the same ideology and the second is a social movement run by me and Piyabutr," Thanathorn had told the Southeast Asia Globe earlier this month.