Until last August, the royalist-military government of Thailand’s main priority seemed to be keeping former prime minister (2001-06) Thaksin Shinawatra out of the country. His term ended in a coup, and he fled abroad in 2008 after being convicted of corruption and abuse of power. In January 2014 a second coup – against his sister Yingluck Shinawatra – neutralised efforts to pass to pass an amnesty law. Yet his return, on 23 August, attracted little attention.
The silence was largely a result of the May 2023 general election. This proved to be a political turning point, leading to the choice of Srettha Thavisin, leader of the Pheu Thai (For Thais) Party (founded by Thaksin) as prime minister, and replacing the divide between Thaksin supporters and opponents – respectively known as ‘red shirts’ and ‘yellow shirts’ – that had shaped Thai politics since the early 2000s, with a generational split between advocates of liberal democracy and ‘Thai-style democracy’. This new dynamic could eventually lead to the exclusion from politics of both the army and the monarchy, the dominant forces in Thailand since the early 20th century.
The largest share of the vote went to the Move Forward Party (MFP), a youth-led antimonarchist and antimilitarist party which is also subtly anti-Thaksin, hence its choice of orange as party colour. But while the MFP has attracted both former royalist ‘yellow shirts’ and former pro-Thaksin ‘red shirts’, it has not done so with a centrist strategy. On the contrary, it has taken the radical stance of designating the army, monarchy and old politics of family dynasties such as Thaksin’s as enemies of the people, and especially of the young.
The MFP’s 14 million votes gave it 151 of the 500 seats in the lower house, while the Pheu Thai Party took 141 seats. The two military-backed parties – the Palang Pracharat Party and United Thai Nation Party – took only 40 and 36 seats. The historically royalist Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest, won just (…)
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