Rulers and the Future Forward threat

18 03 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a long story that revolves around the challenge that the now dissolved Future Forward Party posed to Thailand’s conservative ruling class.

We won’t repeat all of the story, but will emphasize a couple points that mirror commentary at PPT and elsewhere on “The Threat.”

(Again, we should point out that Crispin maintains a ludicrous definition of Thailand as “democratic” when refers to the rigged 2019 election as “democracy-restoring.” That’s just dumb.)

In discussing Future Forward’s dissolution and the banning of its leaders from politics for 10 years, Crispin does allow that this was perceived “as a highly politicized Constitutional Court decision.” And, he’s right to note that replacement party and associated movement remains “on a collision course with ex-coup-maker Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-ocha’s military-aligned coalition government.”

(We are not sure how a coup-maker becomes an ex-coup-maker? Just sloppy writing perhaps.)

And, as we recently posted, the “collision” could come soon now that the puppet Election Commission has filed “criminal charges that threaten to land Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit], banned secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and ex-spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, widely seen as the ex-party’s progressive triumvirate, in prison.”

Crispin observes that some analysts think that the “slew of other pending legal threats aim to drive Thanathorn, Piyabutr and Pannika into exile from the kingdom, extinguishing their promised new movement’s threat to Prayut[h] before it has a chance to fully coalesce.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth is expendable. What is being “protected” is the broader ruling class. Prayuth is merely its servant.

The Threat is clear, explained by Thanathorn:

The people against the military, the rest against the rich, hope against fear, the future against the past…. If we win the battle of ideas, we will win all other battles…. At it’s core, at the heart of this political crisis, is this question: in Thailand who does the power belong to?

It is noted that, “[w]hile in Parliament, Future Forward took hard aim at the military and its top brass, calling for constitutional reforms and accountability…”. Perhaps even more threatening was that Future Forward targeted the big Sino-Thai tycoons and their enormous and sprawling conglomerates:

including the ThaiBev and Charoen Pokphand Group, that arguably benefitted the most from Prayut’s junta government while poverty rates rose and donated generously to bankroll his rise as an elected leader via the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).

And then the biggest threat of all:

in October, the party voted against the Prayut government’s surprise declaration of an emergency decree that gave a legal basis for King Vajiralongkorn to take personal control of two elite infantry divisions, the 1st and 11th, nominally to provide better security for the royal family.

It seems – based on anonymous sources – that Thanathorn and Piyabutr were warned by the king but ignored this:

Clipped from Khaosod

That perceived challenge of royal power, two well-placed sources claim, happened despite Thanathorn and Piyabutr speaking with the monarch by telephone from Germany during a September meeting with army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a palace loyalist and son of a coup-maker.

As Crispin explains, it was soon after this that Gen Apirat “launched his now notorious speech, replete with slides of Vajiralongkorn in military garbs during his communist-fighting days in the 1970’s, labeling Future Forward as a ‘leftist’ threat.”

He then makes an important observation:

That raises questions about whether a broad conservative coalition of military, big business and royalists may have been behind the Election Commission’s push and Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve Future Forward and ban Thanathorn from politics, as well as the follow-up threat to imprison the party’s former executives.

Citing a “government advisor, who requested anonymity” – probably the odious Panitan Wattanayagorn – the regime seems to believe that The Threat  may have been seen off:

“They moved too fast and now they’re gone…. It will be nearly impossible for them to come back through the streets,” he added, noting the army’s stern warnings against staging protests in public spaces.


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