With just five weeks to go to the May 14th General Election, the old political divide is starting to reassert itself as pro-establishment parties seem unable to halt the momentum of both the Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties which appear to be coasting towards a decisive victory in the poll and a new government which ultra-conservative supporters and factions may find unpalatable.
A hard-hitting speech at a rally for the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) party which supports current Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, on Friday night, has added to growing concerns that tensions are mounting in pro-establishment circles as the Pheu Thai Party and the other key opposition party Move Forward, a bête noire in Thai elite circles, surge in the latest opinion polls. In the course of the speech, the leader of the party, Secretary-general to the Prime Minister, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, vowed that any new government formed by his party would get tough with troublemakers and those who opposed the country’s establishment some of whom he also referred to as ‘racists’.
With just weeks to go before a landmark General Election in which the Pheu Thai Party appears poised to regain power, there have been ominous signs in recent days that the electoral contest may be on the verge of turning nasty with the National Police Commissioner General Damrongsak Kittiprapas, at the end of the week, urging police forces throughout the kingdom to monitor and calibrate the threat of political violence at election rallies and meetings with increasing signs that political parties are using security guards amid a rising potential for friction.
A speech, on Friday, given by 64-year-old Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, the leader of the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) party, a newly formed political movement on the ultra-right of Thai politics which supports Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha’s reelection as Thai prime minister, made what has been seen as a polarising speech in which he warned that any future government including his party would ‘get tough’ on what he termed ‘chung chart’ meaning nation haters.
UTN party leader is a former Minister of Justice in the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva and was appointed Secretary-general to the Prime Minister in 2022
Mr Pirapan, who was installed last year as Secretary-general to the Prime Minister, has recently been tipped by General Prayut Chan ocha as his possible successor if, as now seems unlikely, he is returned to power after the May 14th General Election and given that he is required, by law, to step down in 2025.
The party leader who is also the party’s second nominee as prime minister in the election was a former Minister of Justice in the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva and a judge.
In the speech, given at an outdoor arena, Benjakitti Park, in the central Khlong Toei district of Bangkok, the party leader did not hold back in his attack on what he termed ‘racists’ and a small minority creating trouble and discord in the country.
Speaking to the ultra-conservative party faithful and before a platform which contained ultra-royalist hospital owner Dr Riangthong Nanna who is also the party’s chairman on quality of life and the Secretary-general of the party, Mr Akanat Promphan, a stepson of Mr Suthep Thaugsuban who led the 2013 and 2014 anti-government protests in Bangkok which ushered in the 2014 coup and Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, the party leader spoke of being asked by someone what the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) would do if it returns to power as part of the next government.
Promise to get tough with ‘chung chart’ (nation haters) or those who want to overthrow the institution’ in a speech to the conservative faithful
‘He asked me what I would do if I came to take care of the country. I replied that it was very easy. The land of Thailand, Thailand is for patriots. The land of Thailand is a holy land with the monarchy being the pillar of the country. If you don’t like it, you don’t have the right to change it. Because the whole nation of Thai people wants to keep it like this. If you don’t like it, please go to another place. That is not forbidden. Go. Which country do you like? But Thailand must always be like this. Under the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party, we will not change. If we are supported by the people of Thailand as the leader of the government, we will deal with racists,’ Mr Peeraphan declared.
He vowed to ‘get tough’ on what he termed nation haters.
‘Under the administration of the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party, we will not change. If the UTN is a core party that forms the next government, we will get tough against ‘chung chart’ (nation haters) and those who want to overthrow the institution,’ he warned.
In his speech, he described United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) as the fastest-growing party in Thailand and vowed that it was a political movement that was there for the long haul.
Pheu Thai and Move Forward Party surge ahead of pro-government parties in opinion poll figures with over 70% of the vote in Samut Prakan province poll
The latest National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) poll taken in the province of Samut Prakan outside Bangkok, where 8 seats are up for grabs in the General Election on May 14th next, shows how far back the coalition government parties have fallen in the run-up to this General Election.
The United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party has 11.18% of the vote while the current and floundering ruling Palang Pracharat Party only retains 2.91% support while the Bhumjaithai Party, plagued by a fierce public backlash against its controversial marijuana policy, enjoys a minuscule 1.55%.
By comparison, the Pheu Thai Party, Move Forward Party and the aligned Thai Sang Thai Party had a combined vote share of 73.46%.
Even before vote getting ฿10k digital wallet plan unveiled this week by Pheu Thai to expand the Thai economy through more grassroots stimulus spending
This was even before the Pheu Thai Party’s latest policy this week of a ฿10,000 digital wallet for all Thai citizens over 60 years of age from January 1st 2024 as part of an expansionary economic policy designed to boost household income and kickstart economic growth within Thailand according to the party’s nominee for prime minister, Mr Srettha Thavisin who, on Thursday, pointed to the kingdom lagging behind its regional peers with retarded economic growth rates such as the 2.6% registered in 2022.
A key political issue to watch is the apparent preference by Pheu Thai to form a pact after the General Election with the more radical and progressive Move Forward Party which is the bête noire of ultra-conservatives even though the latter party has consistently pledged its support for the country’s cultural traditions including the monarchy.
Possibility of a Pheu Thai, Move Move Forward coalition in power is sparking alarm in establishment circles and has already been ruled out by observers
Recent pronouncements by the Pheu Thai Party leadership suggest that it is favourably disposed to sealing a pact for government with the Move Forward Party rather than any party that the leadership associates with anti-democratic forces linked with the 2014 coup and which have supported the current government led by General Prayut.
Exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in recent weeks, predicted that supporting any other party would only be an option of last resort for the Pheu Thai after the General Election if no other course was open.
The involvement of Move Forward in government, however, is already being discounted in pro-establishment media circles which suggest that such a political pact might be a step too far while the Pheu Thai Party itself still insists it aims to form a single-party government while consistently rejecting persistent media reports being floated of a potential compromise with the Palang Pracharat Party led by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.
Concern growing over political tensions and the emergence of political division as Pheu Thai and Move Forward appears to be storming to election victory
General Prawit, who is holding himself out as a facilitator between the establishment and democratic forces, warned in a recent article that there were still those in Thailand’s power structures who would favour a coup d’état where they considered the democratic will of the people to be either unwise or ill-informed.
Both opposition parties, according to the recent National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) poll, enjoyed 71.37% support at a constituency level in the province of Samut Prakan just outside Bangkok.
The rhetoric on display on Friday will do little to diminish a growing unease that Thailand’s political divisions are ready again to reassert themselves if the opposition wins the May 14th General Election in a landslide, something which has already led to concern among business leaders as well as existing and potential foreign investors.