Worrying noises in the last week as the country’s leading opposition parties appear on course to win the May 14th General Election. Any attempt to dissolve the Pheu Thai Party would be a political earthquake in Thailand as it would completely alter the political landscape and effectively nullify the expected results of the poll next weekend.
The Pheu Thai Party, it was revealed on Monday, is still being probed by the Election Commission due to its digital wallet policy. The powerful body has asked for further information from constitutional activist and firebrand Mr Srisuwan Janya by May 11th, three days before the General Election on May 14th. It follows confirmation last week that the Bhumjaithai Party had instructed ten of its candidates throughout the country to also file a complaint against the party for what a senior Bhumjaithai official insists is its misleading characterisation of its policy on cannabis in particular comments by Mr Srettha Thavisin of Pheu Thai who is reported to have told a rally that the Bhumjaithai Party had unleashed a free for all in the sale of marijuana across the country with the decision to decriminalise marijuana which came into force on June 22nd last with dramatic results.
There are growing concerns that the Pheu Thai Party may be in the sights of coalition parties in government and the Election Commission after it became known on Monday that the commission had requested more details from constitutional activist Srisuwan Janya who had previously lodged a complaint against the party under Section 73 of Thailand’s Electoral Law relating to the dissemination of misleading information in the course of the General Election.
This includes putting forward policies that may be considered erroneous or not fully practicable in the course of the campaign.
฿10,000 giveaway policy was controversial from its first day as it promised a payout to all adults in Thailand, rich and poor, young and old alike
The policy being targeted by critics and political adversaries is Pheu Thai’s controversial digital wallet proposal to give ฿10,000 in digital money to all Thai nationals over 16 years of age subject to conditions after the 1st of January 2024.
Pheu Thai has reportedly submitted reams of information in several submissions to the Election Commission supporting its policy.
This includes expert opinions from economists and academics as to why the plan is both reasonable, practical and advisable for what the party describes as a failing economy at this time.
However, Mr Srisuwan contends that the party has still failed to answer key questions as regards the funding of the policy and whether existing social welfare handouts already incorporated into law by the government, would be jeopardised.
On Monday, the activist, who is the Secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, also said he was bringing party candidate advice slips being given out by the Move Forward Party at rallies, forward to the commission concerning another complaint suggesting the slips with links to online information, may constitute some sort of indirect financial inducement in contravention of Section 73 (1) and (5) of the 2018 Election Act.
Election Commission asks firebrand constitutional activist to submit further information on the continued basis for complaint against Pheu Thai
Regarding Pheu Thai and his earlier complaint, he was asked last Friday, by letter, from the Election Commission to submit his continued grounds of objection by May 11th next, three days before the General Election takes place.
The request for further information suggests that the issue is still being considered by the influential commission which has the power to refer parties for breach of the law to the Constitutional Court where they can, in theory, face an order for their dissolution.
In February 2020, the Constitutional Court dissolved the then Future Forward Party which had come third in the March 2019 General Election, a move that weakened the opposition in parliament and led to a protest movement on the streets and the origin of the Move Forward Party which is on course to emerge as Thailand’s second largest party next weekend.
A decision to dissolve the Pheu Thai Party would have far greater implications.
Pheu Thai on course to form next government according to opinion polls as the election shows a clear divide in favour of a change of Prime Minister
Pheu Thai is currently on course to become the country’s largest political party in the next House of Representatives and to form a coalition government with the Move Forward Party with both groups commanding between 70% and 80% of the electorate while Pheu Thai in particular has a very strong and committed local network on the ground.
Support for the party continues to climb as it also does for the Move Forward Party as polarisation in the country grows and consolidates.
More conservative voters are moving towards the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party and the Bhumjaithai Party with an 80/20 split between those wanting change and those supporting General Prayut staying on as Prime Minister.
Any attempt to dissolve the party would cause a political earthquake in Thailand.
It would also throw the political landscape wide open from what is now looking like a foregone conclusion that the party will take power after the election based on consistent opinion poll surveys which show an emphatic rejection of General Prayut Chan ocha’s second government in power since 2019.
Prime Minister nominee Srettha Thavisin comes out with a video clip strongly supporting the party’s Digital Wallet giveaway plan as it senses danger
In response, on Monday, to the news of the Election Commission’s continued enquiries, one of the Pheu Thai Party Prime Ministerial nominees, Srettha Thavisin, issued a video clip in which he strongly articulated his support for the digital wallet proposal saying that it would create a tsunami of economic activity within the depressed Thai economy which is currently suffering from a continued downturn in export activity amid chronic levels of household debt.
It is clear that the party senses the danger of this threat and has done so since the outset.
Pheu Thai’s ฿10k digital economic stimulus for all under fire as Election Commission opens probe into it
Mr Srettha drew attention to key aspects of the policy such as the need for those benefiting to first open the digital wallet and spend the money within 6 months to participate.
He noted that previous policies had seen members of the public collect the funds to prop up existing savings while others pared down debt.
He also drew attention to the geographical requirement for funds to be spent within 4 km of each person’s residence guaranteeing the monies would be injected across the country into the grassroots economy.
Bhumjaithai Party also calls for the Pheu Thai Party to be referred to the Constitutional Court for misleading the electorate in its marijuana rhetoric
The Bhumjaithai Party, a coalition government member, is also moving to have the Pheu Thai Party and Mr Srettha Thavisin investigated by the Election Commission for making marks alluding to the party’s role in allowing the effective recreational use of marijuana in Thailand.
The party is also unhappy at Mr Srettha’s recent claim that a vote for it is simply another vote for retaining the current Prime Minister General Prayut Chan ocha in office.
Such a complaint, if upheld as grossly misleading and as a violation of the country’s strict election laws, could, in theory, also see the country’s leading party referred to the Constitutional Court and dissolved.
The moves were clarified last Thursday by Mr Supachai Jaisamut, the registrar of the party who said that ten Bhumjaithai candidates will file such a petition with the Election Commission in due course.
The complaints revolve around disparaging remarks made by Mr Srettha at recent campaign rallies where he criticised the Bhumjaithai Party and its leader Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Minister Of Public Health for allowing a situation where the recreational use of cannabis or marijuana was now widespread in Thailand and where young children were threatened by the substance.
Mr Srettha was referring to the loyalty shown by Bhumjaithai Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to the government and its PM
Mr Srettha was indirectly referring to the support and loyalty shown by the Bhumjaithai Party to the government led by General Prayut and reports that the party may form part of a possible ruling coalition returning the Prime Minister to power with Deputy Prime Minister Anutin taking on the role in 2025 after the PM would be required to retire due to a constitutional term limit on his tenure in office.
He said Mr Srettha, during the election campaign, told audiences that the Bhumjaithai Party had a policy for complete and total liberalisation of cannabis, which has led to misuse of the drug among adolescents.
‘This is false,’ Mr Supachai said.
Mr Supichai launched defamation proceedings against activist Mr Chuwit Kamolvisit in early April and even secured what appeared to be a short-lived injunction stopping Chuwit’s anti-Bhumjaithai Party and marijuana crusade against the widespread availability of the drug and the party.
Party issued defamation proceedings last month against Mr Chuwit Kamolvisit over his marijuana remarks but was unable to uphold gagging order
This was overturned within hours on appeal based on constitutional speech rights and the right to politically campaign during the election.
On Thursday, however, Mr Supachai emphasised that the Bhumjaithai Party had never pursued a policy of allowing the widespread recreational use of marijuana.
He said that the the Ministry of Public Health on the contrary had issued regulations to prevent its use in public and to restrict its use to minors.
The comments come as it is now widely accepted that there is public concern at the legalisation of marijuana which was brought about by the removal of the drug as a scheduled or listed illegal narcotic by the Minister of Public Health, Mr Anutin, the Bhumjaithai leader in June 2022, before a bill regulating its use was passed in parliament or came into law.
Cannabis revolution targeted as MPs and public confront the Bhumjaithai Party’s populist gambit on pot
This bill, weak in nature and which contained a provision which could have led to the legalisation of recreational use of the drug by a parliamentary committee vote, was rejected by the Democrat Party and other MPs in the former House of Representatives as the proposed law failed to clearly criminalise the use of the drug for recreational purposes in a direct manner meaning such use to be subject to police action as a criminal activity leading to a term of imprisonment.
Bhumjaithai Party official also wants Srettha censured for suggesting that a vote for that party is a vote for the Prime Minister to remain in power
Mr Supachai also cited Mr Srettha’s remarks about a vote for the Bhumjaithai Party being a vote for extending the tenure of General Prayut as Prime Minister after May 14th.
He said that Mr Anutin had consistently stated that as Bhumjaithai Party leader, he was putting himself forward for that role.
‘We have never criticised another party, especially those that have not identified proper funding for their policies that could result in significant financial burdens for the country,’ he told reporters. ‘Mr Srettha is not mature enough for politics.’
He described the Pheu Thai Party prime ministerial nominee who has been drafted in from the business world as an opportunist trying to become prime minister.
‘If Mr Srettha fails, he will just go back to selling houses,’ he said.
Chuwit Kamolvisit doubles down on his campaign against the Bhumjaithai Party and the country’s current marijuana laws as a real threat to its youth
Meanwhile, Mr Chuwit Kamolvisit was doubling down on his campaign against the current law governing marijuana in Thailand.
He said he continues to campaign against the drug.
‘Marijuana destroys the future of youth,’ he told reporters last week at the Davis Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 24 in Bangkok which he owns.
He said he was aware that several Thai businessmen were profiting from the sale of marijuana in the kingdom but predicted that the Bhumjaithai Party would not return to parliament with more than 50 seats.
General Election turns into a referendum on Pot as Chuwit calls on the public to kick out Bhumjaithai
At the outset of his anti-marijuana campaign, the activist said that if the Bhumjaithai Party is removed from government in this election, it will be a victory for his crusade and a message that the people were against the change last year in the status of cannabis in Thailand.