Dictator General Prayut has dissolved parliament and announced that there will be a General Election in Thailand. But there will not be a restoration of democracy.
Prayut starts off the “race” with his 250 appointed senators in his pocket. They are mainly soldiers and policemen or junta-friendly government officials. Together with the 500 elected members of Parliament, the 250 senators will choose the next Prime Minister. That means that Prayut only needs 126 out of the 500 elected MPs to carry on as Prime Minister.
The complicated rules for calculating the number of MPs each political party will have in parliament, are designed to be biased against Pua Thai and Move Forward Parties which oppose the military.
In the last General Election, the anti-military parties won more popular votes than the pro-military parties, but that had little effect on Prayut’s “victory”. During and after that election, two opposition parties were dissolved by the military appointed judges on weak pretexts. The same could happen this time round. ( bit.ly/3LMRrHz )
What is perhaps different with this election is that Generalissimo Prayut and General “Pig-Face” Prawit have fallen out over the spoils of the dictatorship. So Prayut has moved from Palang Pracharut Party to a new military party: Ruam Thai Sarng Chart Party (United Thai Nation Party). It is equally reactionary as Palang Pracharut Party and has been joined by a bunch of extreme royalists who persecute pro-democracy activists. It is likely to be Prayut’s vehicle to become Prime Minister again, although he is restricted by the Constitution to only holding the position for another 2 years. At the same time, “Pig-Face” Prawit’s health is not in good shape.
The votes for the military party last time round were not all due to ant-democratic manoeuvres. A significant number of middles class and small business people opted for the military. These are the people who were mobilised by the Yellow Shirts royalists to wreck the last democratic elections and help install the two military juntas that have held power since 2006.
In the coming election, none of the main political parties are proposing the basic democratic step of abolishing the draconian lèse-majesté law. This law is used by the military to defend its authoritarian policies, with the excuse that the military junta defends the monarchy and enjoys the support of the monarchy. So, to criticise the military or the monarchy is against the law. Many pro-democracy activists face numerous court cases and have been locked up using this law. Yet, it is not a symptom of the so-called “power” of the idiot King Wachiralongkorn. He enjoys the wealth and status of being King, but has absolutely no interest or understanding of politics and social issues, preferring to spend much time with his harem in Germany.
The use of the lèse-majesté law in Thailand is similar to the use of blasphemy laws in countries where governments claim legitimacy from a non-existent God. The main purpose is to defend authoritarianism and the elites from any criticism. Neither God, nor Wachiralongkorn have any real power in themselves.
There are many young activists in Thailand who are political prisoners, either in jail or awaiting trial on bail. Their only “crime” has been to criticise the military and the monarchy. Yet none of the mainstream parties propose their immediate release and the quashing of all charges.
The coming election will not result in a fairer, more equal society. Despite claims to by many mainstream parties to support a “Welfare State”, in practice they only support some government welfare; hardly the same thing. None propose a universal Welfare State funded through progressive taxation on the rich and the corporations. They are all in favour of neoliberal free-market policies. None of the mainstream parties are in favour of abolishing private hospitals and creating a new National Health Service, either.
The coming election will do nothing to solve the crisis of pollution and dust, which puts the lives of millions of Thai citizens at risk. This is discussed by the political parties, yet none are seriously considering a drastic reduction in private vehicles with substitution by electric public transport, or the strict control of construction. Serious measures aimed at reducing forest fires are not being proposed either. This would involve support for small farmers to stop burning and investment in fire-fighting in forest areas.
The issue of dust and pollution is linked to Climate Change. But none of the mainstream parties are proposing a “just transition” away from fossil fuels and a massive investment in renewables, especially solar power.
The money for these measures could come from drastically reducing the military budget and abolishing the lavish budget for the monarchy. Move Forward Party has mentioned reducing the military budget, but this does not go far enough.
Other serious issues which make the lives of millions of Thais a misery, such as low wages, long working hours, poor trade union rights, the unequal influence of large corporations over land use, poverty in rural areas, women’s abortion rights, the rights of migrants and the Thai State’s war and repression against Malay Muslims in Patani, will not be hot topics during the election campaign.
Added to all this is the depressing fact that the mass movement for democracy which exploded on to the streets in 2020 has now either been defeated, with the prosecution of hundreds of political prisoners, or the energy from that movement has been channelled into parliament and elections under the junta’s rules. ( bit.ly/4063O5P )
The only way to throw off the shackles of military rule is to rebuild of a pro-democracy mass-movement involving young people and the organised working class. In the past, young people have been very militant, but they never really focused on the working class and often they preferred small individualistic and symbolic actions over mass social movements. There are a small number of socialists in Thailand who understand this, but they are still too small in number to build a mass movement to bring about change.