Could political turmoil return to Thailand’s streets?

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Experts warn that the fight between the pro- and anti-military camps could lead to prolonged unrest

Jintana Panyaarvudh
Thailandtoday.co

Fears are rising that Thailand could erupt in another round of political turmoil following opposition Future Forward Party’s announcement that it plans to bring people to the streets next month to oust the Prayut government.

Perhaps more importantly, the fighting between the pro and anti-military factions appears to have gone from disagreement over political ideology to issues of patriotism. Political observers have voiced concerns that this could lead to a civil war.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) index on Monday took a steep plunge, falling 1.54 per cent or 24.17 points to close at 1,549.74. Tisco market insight cited political uncertainties and negative technical factors.

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit last Saturday (December 14) staged a rally against the continued power of the military at the Skywalk over the Pathumwan Intersection in downtown Bangkok.

Joined by thousands of supporters, the rally was the biggest since the military coup in 2014.

 

On the same day, the pro-government camp led by former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a founder of the Action Coalition for Thailand Party, organised a training course on the topic “Ideology and Political Communication”.

Suthep said the Kingdom was still unsafe as the “nation-haters cult” was prepared to start a new round of conflict. Suthep did not specify who he meant by the cult but there was little doubt he was referring to Thanathorn and his party.

Stithorn Thananithichot, a political scientist from King Prajadhipok’s Institute, warned of the dangers of using such emotive terms as love or hate the nation in stands against each other, as it is a very sensitive issue.

“The attempt to accuse others of being nation-haters or non-patriots to provoke their supporters is very dangerous and it could lead to civil war,” said Stithorn.

The academic said he foresaw that tension would escalate and the two sides could end up confronting each other.

But whether it would lead to violence depends on the leaders of the camps and if they decided to use protesters as a weapon to fight against other, he said.

“We have a lot of experience (of how it will end]. I think they should avoid doing that or Thai politics will return to a state of prolonged conflict,” Stithorn said.

The rally on Saturday was called by Thanathorn days after the Election Commission decided to ask the Constitutional Court to dissolve his party for allegedly violating the Political Act for receiving a Bt191-million loan from him to finance its election campaign.

If the party is dissolved, its 15 executives will be banned from politics for up to 10 years, with non-executive MPs free to join another party.

Thanathorn lost his MP status last month when he was judged to have violated Constitutional law by applying to contest the March general election this year while still holding shares in his family-run V Luck Media Company.

However, Thanathorn denied the rally was about him and his party but rather to stand up and demand justice and equality.

The 40-year-old billionaire-turned-politician founded his party in March last year and set it as the third force, a movement that would unlock a decade of political unrest.

The party has made strong moves against the arch-royalist establishment since seizing the political limelight with its intentional taking down of the army’s role in Thai politics and society.

By Hua Hin Today

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