23-Point Thai Opposition Platform 2023

After winning the May 14 general election, the progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) agreed a manifesto with seven other parties that includes ambitious promises but does not include a disputed royal insult legislation.

The MFP, led by 42-year-old businessman Pita Limjaroenrat, won a predicted 152 House of Representatives seats. At a news conference in Bangkok yesterday, the MFP revealed a 23-point pact to secure the support of the seven parties that have joined its alliance to elect Pita as prime minister in July.

The treaty codifies MFP extremism. It wants to write a new, democratic constitution, decentralize administrative power, and end peacetime military conscription.

The alliance will legalize same-sex marriage, restructure the police, military, courts, and public service, and “cancel monopolies and support fair competition in trade in all industries.”

Strangely, a progressive alliance wants to reinstall marijuana manufacturing and sales limitations that were lifted last year following de facto legalization.

According to Reuters, Pita claimed the partnership was “about shared values and commonalities and shared agenda and accountability” at the news conference. “All parties can propose policies but must not violate this agreement through ministries.”

The accord does not contain the MFP’s most contentious commitment to modify Article 112 of the Thai criminal code. The lese-majeste statute criminalizes royal criticism and carries a 15-year sentence. It has been used to stifle criticism of the monarchy’s involvement in Thai politics and the money and power it sustains.

The MFP’s campaign platform included the youth-led mass demonstrations in late 2020 and early 2021, against whose leaders the lese-majeste statute was eventually used. First-time voters and other young Thais, fed up with military rule and state-enforced royal respect, supported it strongly.

The coalition pact’s lack of a lese-majeste policy may disappoint MFP supporters, but it’s likely a political necessity. The MFP’s eight-party coalition—Pheu Thai Party, Prachachat Party, Thai Sang Thai Party, and four smaller parties—holds 313 House members. This majority falls short of the 376 parliamentary votes needed to elect Pita prime minister in July. Thus, the party must persuade regressive conservative legislators or military-appointed Senate members to back its prime ministerial nominee.

Given the MFP’s policy platform, that will be difficult without the lese-majeste reform vow and nearly impossible with it. While open debate of the monarchy and its role in Thai politics has increased in recent years, it remains taboo throughout much of the country’s political spectrum.

Thai conservatives reject any revisions to Article 112, and the most extreme royalists are already trying to use it to exclude Pita and the MFP from establishing the next administration.

Yesterday, ultra-royalist activist Suwit Thongprasert petitioned the Election Commission to dissolve the MFP, saying that its lese-majeste attitude was an effort to overthrow Thailand’s constitutional monarchy. With such legal hurdles, even MFP coalition partners have hesitated to endorse any palace attack.

“The missions of the MFP-led government must not affect the democratic system with the king as head of state and the revered status of the king who cannot be violated,” a source close to coalition negotiations told the Bangkok Post yesterday.

Pita told Reuters yesterday that his party’s Article 112 change will not hinder Senate backing. “We have a team to explain how to amend it so it cannot be used as a political tool… this will ease senators’ concerns,” he told reporters. It’s unclear, but lese-majeste would make it more harder.

All in all, the MFP’s decision to defer lese-majeste reform to retain the rest of its platform that won it the May 14 election is unsurprising. Even if Pita’s prime ministership doesn’t change Article 112, this isn’t the end. Since 2020, the lese-majeste provision and maybe the monarchy’s rights and prerogatives are being openly contested for the first time in decades. Thai politics may evolve in the future years to allow such a policy.

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