The virulence with which the accusations of sexual harassment against the two MPs have been pursued serves as notice that for Move Forward, the Party’s core progressive ideology is both potent, politically powerful, and something new in Thai politics.
The Move Forward Party is expected to make moves again this week, for the second time, to expel Bangkok MP Mr Chaiyamphavan Manphianjit after his critics argued that an attempted apology in response to sexual harassment claims on Friday fell short of what was required and tried to shift the responsibility to his victims, women he is alleged to have sexually harassed. The Party appears to be in uproar over sexual harassment claims, some by online text, made against two MPs, with female MPs claiming the Party must show a commitment to its progressive ideology.
The Move Forward Party, which found itself relegated to the opposition benches after this Summer’s General Election, has become engulfed in a sexual harassment controversy which has already seen one MP, Wutthipong Thonglao, from Prachin Buri, expelled from the Party at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday while another Bangkok based MP, Mr Chaiyamphavan Manphianjit, who was censured, is again on the brink of expulsion.
At length, Mr Chaiyamphavan, punished at last Wednesday’s meeting, now finds himself again in another storm of controversy after an attempted apology for his behaviour on Friday appears to have backfired, causing anger within the ranks of the Party, particularly among female MPs.
Calls for Bangkok MP to be brought again before a disciplinary committee for a second vote on his expulsion from Move Forward after last week’s vote
The alleged victims of sexual harassment and female Move Forward Party MPs are now calling for him to be disciplined again by the Party’s Disciplinary and Ethics committee, which is being called upon to meet again on Monday, November 6, to allow another vote to a combined meeting of party MPs and the Forward Executive Committee.
On Wednesday, this gathering, in an acrimonious mood, voted on such a motion with 106 members backing the Bangkok MP’s expulsion.
However, unlike his colleague and fellow accused from Prachin Buri province, this was beneath the required three-quarters, and the MP thus found himself censored and had his privileges removed for the current session of Parliament.
Prachin Buri MP expelled last week, but Bangkok MP’s apology on Friday has only provoked greater anger and calls for his expulsion and a second hearing
At the same meeting, Mr Wutthipong, the Move Forward MP for Prachin Buri in Eastern Thailand, was expelled from the Party on the grounds of sexual harassment in the form of online messages to staff and other female associates.
Similar accusations were made against the Bangkok MP Mr Chaiyamphavan, who, on Friday, expressed remorse for his actions, which have brought the Party into disrepute. The contrite MP even bowed before reporters as he asked for forgiveness.
However, this failed according to the most vociferous campaigners against gender inequality both within and without the House of Representatives, who say he must fully accept his guilt concerning sexually harassing female members and associates.
They claim he appeared to be transferring the blame for the matter on those who had brought the accusations to the Party.
Strongly worded letter spoke of Move Forward’s ideology, the complex nature of gender inequality and a need for it to fight for progressive values
A two-page letter issued by the victims held the Move Forward Party MPs to a higher standard, claiming that both Thai society and many of the members of the Party itself failed to appreciate the delicate, complex and advanced nature of gender inequality that exists in Thailand today.
On this basis, they demanded a robust response from Mr Chaiyamphavan and called for his status to be put to a vote by the Party again.
Furthermore, the letter took issue with the 22 MPs who, at the extended meeting last Wednesday, November 1, refused to expel Mr Chaiyamphavan from the Party, suggesting that these MPs did not appreciate the severity of the sexual harassment that the well-known Bangkok MP had instigated.
The letter expressed disappointment that the Move Forward Party had failed to expel both offending MPs, saying that this was what was expected of it, at a minimum.
It took issue with the sexual objectification of women and said that sexual harassment was unequivocally and undeniably wrong.
Over the last week, female MPs within the Move Forward Party have described the issue of sexual harassment and gender equality that the Party is pursuing as a paramount factor in its core ideology.
The depth of feeling and indeed anger toward the two relatively young MPs and, in particular, the pursuit of Mr Chaiyamphavan’s expulsion is something new in Thai politics, with the virulence seen as something in stark contrast to politics up to now in the Kingdom.
Bangkok MP’s apology and a theatrical bow of contrition before reporters has further inflamed feelings against him in the Party among female MPs
In this respect, the apology or efforts to make amends by Mr Chaiyamphavan on Friday failed to equate to the Party’s deep and uncompromising stance on gender equality, reflecting a broader problem within Thai society.
The letter from the victims over the weekend suggested that the 22 MPs had opted to put their political credentials and ideology to one side by supporting their friend and, in this way, shown themselves just to be similar to other cohorts of biased politicians who put their interests above their conscience.
The Bangkok MP holds bachelor’s degrees from Bangkok University and Ramkhamhaeng University, with expertise in communications arts and a major in politics and governance.
Previously, Mr Chaiyamphavan has been a critical campaigner for a renewed People’s Constitution in conjunction with the ILAW group while campaigning for LGBTQ rights in Thailand.
The virulence of the campaign against both MPs accused of sexual harassment through text has shocked the Thai Parliament and society at large, reflecting the agenda of younger and more progressive voters.
Six-hour meeting behind closed doors with smartphones left outside as the Party’s MPs and Executive Committee thrashed the accusations out
The meeting of MPs and the Executive Committee last Wednesday lasted for six hours in what was reported to have been a highly charged atmosphere, with organisers of the conference insisting smartphones were left outside as accusations against both men were aired in detail before a vote was taken.
The vote was conclusive concerning the expulsion of Mr Wutthipong, the MP from Prachin Buri, who has since been approached over the weekend by the small Thai Civilised Party, which failed to have an MP elected in the May 14th General Election.
The Thai Civilised Party leader, Mr Mongkolkit Susintharano, explained to reporters over the last few days that feelers had been put out to Mr Wutthipong saying that he would be welcome within the ranks of the minor Party and suggesting that the accusations made against him are not similar to criminal and corruption offences with the little Party therefore willing to overlook the matter and give the MP a new start in politics.
The embattled House of Representatives member has reportedly responded to the invitation but is said to be considering it as it would obviate his need to resign his MP seat and allow for a by-election.
Bangkok MP’s status is now unclear
Mr Chaiyamphavan’s position remains unclear until events unfold over the coming days, with tensions and feelings in the Party running high.
In September, the Move Forward Party elected Mr Chaitawat Tulathon as its leader after Mr Pita Limjaroenrat resigned because of an ongoing case being pursued against him at the Constitutional Court by the Election Commission concerning his stewardship of a shareholding in a defunct TV station, ITV, owned by his father while acting as executor for his deceased father’s estate.
Since then, the Party, which won the General Election but found itself outflanked in the formation of a government, has won a significant victory in the Rayong by-election when it pulled 57% of the vote, exceeding its performance on May 14 when it pulled 40%.
Move Forward Party to elect a new leader on Sunday as the party settles into its official opposition role
The Party’s leadership has interpreted this as a reward by the public for its principled stand on politics and unwillingness to compromise.
It is this thinking within the Party, particularly among female MPs, that insists that it must pursue its progressive agenda for society and the economy stridently within its ranks at this time.