Thailand’s Political Landscape Shifts: Challenges and Prospects for Progress

On May 14, 2023, a general election was conducted in Thailand, attracting 52 million eligible voters. The turnout rate achieved an unparalleled high since 1946. The outcome of the general election was unforeseen. The Far Progress Party, an obscure political party, clinched victory with 152 votes out of 500 seats in the House of Commons, surpassing the Pheu Thai Party, a political party governed by the Thaksin family, which secured only 142 votes, ranking second. The Thai Pride Party, advocating for the legalization of marijuana, gained 70 votes, becoming the third-largest party. The current Prime Minister Prayut’s political party and other military-linked parties attained only 30 to 40 votes. It is safe to say that the general trend has been reversed.

In compliance with the election procedure of Thailand’s general election, once the election results are announced, newly elected members will elect the speaker of the upper and lower houses, followed by voting for the prime minister. The new cabinet will not be inaugurated until early August.

On the afternoon of May 22, local time, eight political parties that are temporarily leading in the election of the House of Commons in Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding on the formation of a coalition government. The Far Progressive Party, the Pheu Thai Party, the National Party, the Freedom Thai Party, the Heli Pheu Thai Party, the Justice Party, and the New Social Forces unanimously endorsed the leader of the Far Progress Party, Pita, as the 30th prime minister of Thailand. The memorandum of understanding encompasses the consensus reached by the various parties, including constitutional amendments, military reforms, economic revitalization, reducing the income gap, and social welfare reforms.

The most astonishing event of this general election in Thailand was the emergence of the Far Progress Party, which rallied from behind and overtook the Pheu Thai Party to become the largest party in the House of Commons. For more than 20 years, the political party controlled by the Thaksin family has dominated the House of Commons in all prior general elections. The Far Forward Party is a new political party established in 2019 and succeeded the Future Far Forward Party, a highly popular political party in recent years. The leader of the Far Forward Party, Pitta, was once a member of the Future Far Forward Party, and after it disbanded, he established the Far Forward Party.

Peeta, 42 years old, was born into a wealthy family in Thailand. He attended high school in New Zealand, studied at Thammasat University in Thailand, and then pursued postgraduate degrees from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

In addition to measures aimed at improving people’s livelihoods, the Far Progress Party’s political platform emphasizes anti-military and reforming the monarchy, such as reforming the military service system, transitioning from conscription to voluntary application or enlistment examination, dissolving the Internal Security Operations Command, and repealing Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code, which criminalizes blasphemy against the monarchy.

The current military service system in Thailand mandates that all males aged 18-30 register for military service, and a lottery determines whether they must serve. Transgender individuals are not exempted. The service duration is generally two years, but volunteering to serve can reduce the time served. Many young Thais consider serving in the military a waste of time and fear being sent to the southern front to combat Islamic separatists, so they generally oppose conscription.

The Thai military has staged numerous coups in the past century, particularly since the ousting of the Yingluck government in 2014. Prayuth served as Thailand’s prime minister for an extended period and resorted to controversial means to prolong his tenure. During his time in office, Thailand’s situation was bleak in all respects. Prayuth frequently used offensive language and reprimanded the media, resulting in his unpopularity. Faced with the military’s long-term rule, the Thai public has changed its perspective. In recent years, there have been sizable protests against military rule in Thailand.

Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code stipulates that anyone who defames, insults, or threatens the Thai emperor, queen, crown prince, or regent will be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment for at least three years but no more than fifteen years. This crime is also known as “the crime of bullying the king.” The scope of this offense is broad, and those in power can easily interpret it. In 2011, a 63-year-old Thai man was sentenced to 20 years in jail for allegedly sending text messages that insulted the King of Thailand. Despite his failing health and his denial of sending the text messages, he was imprisoned and died in jail the following year. In 2015, a Thai man faced 15 years in prison for posting a picture on Facebook that purportedly ridiculed Thailand’s King Bhumibol’s pet dog.

It is worth noting that the Far Progress Party’s victory in the general election has brought about a significant change in Thailand’s political landscape. For the first time in over two decades, a political party other than the one controlled by the Shinawatra family has won the majority of seats in the House of Commons. This suggests that the Thai public is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the traditional populist policies of the Thaksin family and is looking for a new direction.

It remains to be seen how the Far Progress Party will handle the challenges it faces in governing the country. The party’s political platform is highly ambitious and includes constitutional amendments, military reforms, economic revitalization, reducing the income gap, and social welfare reforms, among others. Achieving these goals will require significant political capital and coordination among various stakeholders.

Moreover, the party’s stance on sensitive issues such as the monarchy and military reform is likely to provoke strong opposition from conservative elements in Thai society. The military has historically been a powerful force in Thai politics and is unlikely to surrender its influence easily. Similarly, any attempt to curtail the powers of the monarchy is likely to be met with resistance from royalists.

In conclusion, the outcome of the general election in Thailand has brought about a seismic shift in the country’s political landscape. The emergence of the Far Progress Party as the largest political party in the House of Commons suggests that the Thai public is looking for a new direction and is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the traditional populist policies of the Thaksin family. However, the challenges facing the new government are significant, and it remains to be seen how it will navigate the complex political landscape of Thailand.

The next prime minister is still unknown

  On the afternoon of May 22 local time, the eight parties signed a memorandum of understanding on the formation of a coalition government, and unanimously agreed that the leader of the Far Progress Party, Pita, will be the prime minister of the new government. But for now, Peeta’s path to prime minister is still full of uncertainties.
  According to the Thai constitution, the upper house of parliament has 250 seats, all appointed by the military, and the lower house has 500 seats, which are elected. There are a total of 750 seats. Anyone who wants to be the prime minister must obtain the support of at least 376 seats.
  Since the Far Progressive Party’s platform has strong anti-monarchist and anti-military undertones, this basically means that the 250 seats in the House of Lords will basically not be voted for him. In this way, the Far Progressive Party needs to gather 376 seats out of the 500 seats in the House of Commons to make its dream come true. At present, the Far Progressive Party and the other seven parties forming the coalition government only control a total of 313 seats.
  Originally, if the Thai Proud Party, which won the third vote and 70 seats, was brought into the coalition, the number of votes would be enough, but the problem is that the conflict between the Far Progress Party and the Thai Proud Party is quite acute. The contradictions mainly revolve around the legalization of marijuana and the crime of “deception”. Especially on the issue of “crime of deceiving the monarch”, the Thai Pride Party has a very fierce attitude.
  According to the “Bangkok Post” report, on the evening of May 17 local time, the Thai Pride Party issued a statement on social platforms, clearly emphasizing that “it will not support any political party or prime minister candidate who attempts to amend or abolish Article 112 of the Criminal Code.” It can be said that the road for the Thai Pride Party to join the gang has basically been blocked.
  In addition, Peeta himself has a flaw, that is, he has always held shares in media companies, which is firmly prohibited by Thailand’s electoral law. Peeta himself argues that these shares are his father’s legacy, and he just hasn’t been able to sell them, but the problem is that his father passed away in 2006. If he really wants to sell them, it’s impossible to do it after 17 years less than. If this point is grasped by opponents, Pita may even be disqualified from serving as a member of Congress. In fact, the leader of the Future Far Progress Party, which was in the limelight at the time, lost his membership as a member of the parliament because of his holding of media shares.
  If Peeta fails to become the prime minister, then the leader of the Pheu Thai Party, Thaksin’s youngest daughter Bei Tongdan may become the next prime minister of Thailand as a compromise candidate. Although both Thaksin and Yingluck were overthrown by military coups, and both received the tacit approval of the Thai king at that time, the Pheu Thai Party’s attitude towards the military and the monarchy in previous general elections was relatively moderate. The Far Progressive Party insisted on abolishing Article 112 of the Penal Code, while Petondan just said that this is not the political platform of the Pheu Thai Party, but relevant ideas can be discussed in the Congress, which shows that she is taking a middle line, and this attitude is relatively easier to be rejected by the military. and accepted by the monarchy.
Thailand’s road to progress

  The changes in Thailand’s political arena in the past 20 years cannot be separated from Thaksin. Thaksin, born in 1949, was a policeman in his early years, and later abandoned the police to become a businessman. On February 9, 2001, he was elected as the 23rd Prime Minister of Thailand, becoming the first Prime Minister in Thailand’s history to serve for four years, and in 2005 Year was re-elected.
  He believes that his internal political achievements are outstanding, and his progress in promoting economic growth, drug control and combating the southern armed separatist movement is particularly well-known. He is recognized by the international community as a rare leader in Thailand. Thaksin’s most far-reaching policy is to support rural areas and the poor. Although he was labeled as a populist, it fundamentally changed the rules of the Thai political game.
  Previously, Thai politics was more of a bargaining game among elites. For the people at the bottom, no matter who comes to power, it has nothing to do with them, so there is not much difference in who they vote for. Thaksin made these people who were originally fending for themselves feel cared for and aroused their political enthusiasm. Therefore, these people account for 70% of Thailand’s population. The people became his basic set.
  As a result, the original balance of power in Thailand’s political arena was broken, and the original vested interests and elites could no longer win elections, so they naturally believed and hated him. In the middle of the night of September 19, 2006, Somthip, commander-in-chief of the Thai Army, launched a military coup to overthrow Thaksin who was attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA.
  Since Thaksin went into exile abroad, Thailand’s politics have fallen into a vicious cycle of supporting Thaksin and anti-Thaksin. There have been many bloody conflicts, and even the APEC summit held in Thailand has been affected.
  In August 2011, after Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck was elected to power, Thailand’s political situation seemed to gradually stabilize. However, in the later period of the administration, Yingluck’s desire to pardon Thaksin and the high-priced rice purchase plan full of loopholes finally made the opposition The handle was caught, the military coup happened again, and Yingluck stepped down. After the military leader Prayuth came to power, he has been in power until now through a series of measures such as amending the constitution.
  The Far Progress Party and its predecessor, the Future Far Progress Party, are emerging political parties born out of the civil democratic movement in the capital Bangkok in recent years. When the party was founded, the key members were all intellectuals and urban elites in Thailand. For example, Tannaton was a big entrepreneur, and Peeta had served as an executive of Grab and other companies. Most of the other important figures and core supporters of the Far Progressive Party also come from the fields of law, business, education, technology, and medical care, and they are all from the middle and upper class in Thailand.
  Most of the supporters of the Pheu Thai Party come from the grassroots, and their main purpose is to obtain material benefits. Focus on expressing and realizing demands through the news media, civic organizations, and moderate social movements. They are opposed to military dictatorship and royal abuse of power, and they are not fond of populist politics. Instead, they look forward to ending the military and royal power’s infringement of civil rights through peaceful and rational means, achieving stable and sustainable democratic politics, and promoting social justice. .
  In this general election, the Far Progressive Party not only won a big victory in Bangkok, but also defeated the Pheu Thai Party in Thaksin’s hometown. Some grassroots people’s hearts.
  In the past 20 years, Thailand’s politics has undergone a transformation from elite manipulation, indifference of the bottom to the rise of the bottom, populist outburst, and then the pursuit of change, fairness and rationality, and the prospect of progress is clearly visible. Since 1932, there have been 19 military coups in Thailand, and this political approach has become increasingly unpopular. At the same time, it is inevitable that the power of the monarchy, which reached its peak during the Bhumibol period, will be weakened to a certain extent in the future. These new trends are obviously more valuable than who should be prime minister.

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