The Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit on Monday night met former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun after he made his speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok in which he criticised incessant attempts to sideline him and his political party from Thai politics. Mr Thanathorn’s fiery speech came as the Chairman of a committee to support families of victims of the deadly political unrest in Thailand in May 1992 warned that conditions right now are ripe for similar protests against the government. The Chairman, in particular, warned Mr Thanathorn to be cautious and not make the situation worse for many people. At present, there are plans in January for street protests and counter street protests. This comes at a time when Thailand is already facing a deteriorating economic situation and a weak government racked with internal tensions.
The Prime Minister this week was nonchalant about the prospect of street protests being organised by student activists to take place on January 12th next in Bangkok. This is despite a warning on Monday night from the Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit that the activities of the current government have provoked ‘anger’ and that conservative forces were seeking to dissolve his political party while driving him and his followers from the political arena. He warned that such people are taking part in a ‘very dangerous gamble’ with unknown consequences.
The leader of Future Forward warned on Monday night that a ‘storm’ may be brewing as he warned that attempts to dissolve his new political party could spark protests on the streets.
It comes as there are credible reports that the Election Commission is considering a complaint relating to loans advanced by Mr Thanathorn to the party he co-founded last year and which was catapulted into the spotlight by the March 24th election result.
Thanthorn warned that the current government direction will provoke a public backlash
Speaking to an audience at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok, the radical young leader told rapt listeners that he believes that the anger of people in Thailand is real and that without a change of its current course, the government looks set to provoke a return to street protests.
Referred to protest planned for January 12th
Mr Thanathorn referred to a planned protest on January 12th being organised by anti-government activists entitled the Run Against Dictatorship or alternatively in Thai Wing Lai Loong which translated means the ‘run to oust uncle’.
It is well known in Thailand that the current prime minister and former army leader, General Prayut Chan ocha is also known as Uncle Tu even by friends and colleagues.
‘Very dangerous gamble’ in pushing people out
Mr Thanathorn described the current approach of the government as a ‘very dangerous gamble’ saying that he had formed a view that the current authorities think that they can sideline his party.
‘The establishment are pushing people out,’ he said. ‘They seem certain they could contain it and control it. But many think otherwise. I’m not convinced.’ he said.
Firebrand leader more determined than ever
Mr Thanathorn expressed frustration at the current situation but appeared uncowed by the recent decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to quash his status as an MP.
In fact, Monday’s speech shows that the young leader is more determined than ever to pursue his virulent opposition to the involvement of the military in Thai civil life and government.
Questioning military budget and opposing conscription
Just this week, the 40-year-old leader was questioning the level of military expenditure and the transparency of associated budgets while his party is pursuing measures through the House of Representatives which irk the ruling Palang Pracharat Party closely aligned with the former junta or military-installed government.
Government lost vote last week on Section 44 review of decrees issued by the military junta
One measure calls for in-depth scrutiny of the now-defunct Section 44 legal instrument and 27 decrees issued by the current prime minister when he was also the leader of the military junta from 2014 up to July this year. Another measure is a bill to end military conscription in Thailand which is vehemently opposed by the army.
On Wednesday last, the Thai government coalition in a surprising development lost a House of Representatives a key vote on the Section 44 issue by 234 votes to 230.
Despite calls for a recount, the opposition alliance is holding to the vote. This has sparked a valid debate about the rules governing parliamentary vote and associated procedure. The affair has served to expose further flaws in the current constitution and parliamentary process.
Meeting of coalition leaders on Tuesday night
A high-level meeting of political leaders was convened at the Rajpruek Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in Bangkok on Tuesday organised by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan to formulate a common approach by the coalition to what appears to be a more energised opposition in parliament.
Deteriorating economic situation is the biggest threat to the government, could also spark protest
The current tensions stem not only from the historic acrimony that exists between the deeply divided lower house and passionate opposition among pro-government parties to the progressive agenda of Future Forward Party but also a deteriorating economic situation which is causing hardship in many Thai households.
On Sunday last, the Chairman of a committee for supporting families of victims of the 1992 political unrest in Thailand, Adul Khiewboriboon, warned that the current political and economic situation is ripe for an eruption of mass protest.
Warning from Chairman of 1992 victim support group to Mr Thanathorn not to make things worse
Indeed Mr Asul warned the fiery opposition leader Mr Thanathorn to be cautious.
Referring to the plans for a protest in January, Mr Adul warned: ‘In the face of hardships, people affected by economic problems could jump in and make the situation worse.’
Future Forward leader described himself as a ‘breaker of chains’ to his audience at the press club
On Monday night, as Mr Thanathorn described himself as a ‘breaker of chains’ referring to the influence of the Thai army and establishment inertia in Thailand, one of the members of the audience was Anand Panyarachun, the former prime minister from 1991 and 1992 who successfully bridged the gaps between establishment forces and those demanding a more democratic country during the 1992 crisis.
Mr Anand was credited with the drafting of the 1997 Constitution which many of today’s democratic activists see as the model for replacing or altering the current 2017 charter which is seen as the product the military government but which was passed in 2016 plebiscite.
Today’s supporters of reform including many Thai political parties say that the plebiscite was flawed as political discourse at that time was restricted by the junta.
Former Prime Minister spoke with Mr Thanathorn
Mr Anand spoke to Mr Thanathorn after the younger man’s speech and presented him with a copy for his biography entitled: Anand Panyarachun And The Making Of Modern Thailand written by ex-President of the Foreign Correspondent Club Dominic Faulder. The inscription on the inside read: ‘ I hope you learn something from this book. Good luck!’
Hostility to Future Forward from conservative forces in Thai society – Thanathorn warns of divisions
At the well-attended meeting, Mr Thanathorn referred to an ongoing hostility and campaign of attrition against his new political party from the establishment and conservative forces in Thailand. ‘They consistently use fake news and misinformation to discredit the opposition. They are branding us as traitors, branding us as anti-monarchy, instilling hatred that divides the people of this country,’ he told his audience.
Army officer questioned Thanathorn after his address
At the conclusion of his address at the Foreign Correspondents Club, the leader of Thailand’s third-largest party in the lower house was questioned at the event by Colonel Artcha Boongrapu.
The colonel is a member of the Committee to Return Happiness to the People within the Thai military. The expression has been linked to the former military junta and was the title of the current prime minster’s weekly TV programme in the course of his first administration.
Urged him not to make more problems
Colonel Artcha observed that many politicians were no more than hypocritical troublemakers. He challenged Mr Thanathorn by saying: ‘Come in and solve problems, not make more problems.’
Spokesman for the leading political party also challenged Mr Thanthorn’s speech
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the largest political party in the governing coalition Palang Pracharat, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, also reacted to Mr Thanathorn’s speech.
‘He should respect the justice system. Nobody knows how these legal cases will play out,’ he told the press. ‘The majority of people don’t want to see street protests again. They don’t want to see chaos and disruption in the country.’
Prime Minister not perturbed by January protest reports but points to extended period of stability
Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha did not seem to be perturbed by the planned protest on January 12th. It has emerged that the organisers of the event are linked to student activist groups in key universities.
The PM said ultimately it was a matter for the public to decide upon but observed that the events were being orchestrated in a situation where the kingdom has been enjoying an extended period of political peace.
Supporters of the government to stage counter-protest to show support for ‘Uncle Tu’
It is being reported that similar event is being contemplated by supporters of the prime minister to be called Wing Tam Lung or Run to Follow Uncle.
Indeed the prime minister was in jocular form and appeared not to be intimidated in the least by the reports of the protest to oust him. He even allowed that it was the right of protestors to take part in the event being billed as a run provided there was no violence.
Asked later about the events and his participation the government alternative counter run, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wonsuman told reporters that he could barely walk steadily at the current time.