Thai junta can’t even tolerate existence of opposition parties

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Not content with staying in power after phoney elections, the Thai junta’s parliamentary dictatorship cannot even tolerate the existence of the Future Forward Party. The Kangaroo Courts have just dissolved the main opposition party using some pathetic pretence about the party borrowing money.

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The fine details of the case are irrelevant because this was a blatant political move to destroy the Future Forward Party and its leading politicians. It follows the removal of Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as a member of parliament just after the election. The courts also have a long history of using double standards. Naturally the military party has never faced any sanctions despite continually flouting the law.

Let us be clear: Generalissimo Prayut’s authoritarian government came to power following a coup d’état in 2014. It is still in power in the form of a “parliamentary dictatorship” following a phoney election where the junta drew up all the rules to ensure that it stayed in power. This included appointing the Electoral Commission, the Senate and the Constitutional Courts. Prayut remains Prime Minister despite the fact that opposition parties won more votes and more seats in parliament. The military is still intervening at all levels of society in a dictatorial fashion and draconian laws are still being used to try to prevent peaceful protests and freedom of expression.

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Parliament, the legal system and the courts are being used to white-wash Prayut’s junta. Therefore Prayut’s appeal for people to “respect” the decision of the courts is tantamount to asking people to eat excrement.

The Future Forward Party has gone out of its way to conform to the rules set by the dictatorship and has emphasised using the law and parliamentary procedures. Yet even this is too much for Prayut’s government.

Despite the fact that many of us opposed the tactics of the Future Forward Party in conforming to the junta’s rules, the fact that they did this, and they have still faced the chopping block, just shows that there is no realistic alternative to building a mass pro-democracy movement outside parliament in order to bring down the dictatorship. Such a movement would have cast-iron legitimacy.

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In December Thanathorn and other Future Forward Party leaders called a successful protest when the party first faced the prospect of being dissolved. Today, after the latest slap in the face by the junta’s obedient courts, party leaders must seize the opportunity to fight back while there is a mood of anger against the junta in society. If they do not move forward to build a mass social movement, they will be showing criminal negligence in the struggle for democracy. A failure to react robustly in the face of the junta’s latest attack risks causing demoralisation and defeat.

Whatever the top leaders of the Future Forward Party decide to do, grass-roots activists, both inside and outside the party, should be trying to build a powerful network of people who are prepared to struggle for democracy on the streets, in the universities and colleges and among trade union activists. Not only would such a network strengthen any calls for action coming from the top, but it would also help to ensure that any struggle, if it takes place, is not sold out by top politicians engaging in a grubby compromise with the military. Such a compromise resulted in the defeat and destruction of the Red Shirt movement a few years ago.