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Moving towards the next phase of politics in Thailand – who will emerge winner?

Updated On: Jun 08, 2007

A week after having been dissolved, the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party is fighting tooth and nail to maintain its position in Thai society at the same time as the authorities decided to lift the ban on political activities.

The cabinet agreed on Wednesday, 6 June, “to lift a ban on political activities imposed by the coup-makers in a decision which would allow political groups including the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party to start making moves in preparation for the next general election”, the Bangkok Post reported. PM Surayud said that the draft law to lift Announcement No. 15 (the ban on all political activities) will be finalized by next week before being forwarded to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for consideration.

However, the government will “keep Announcement No. 27, which strips executives of political parties dissolved for electoral fraud of the rights to contest elections and to vote in elections for five consecutive years” so that the 5-year ban on TRT executives can be upheld. According to the recently released BangkokUniversitypoll “showed 58.8 per cent of 1,032 respondents agreed with the activity relaxation and party registration permission”, the Nation noted.

With this new development, Surapong Suebwonglee, a former key Thai Rak Thai figure, has “emerged as a potential leader of a new political party that ex-Thai Rak Thai members hope to set up under the old name”, the Bangkok Post noted. 

On the other hand, there remain firm Thaksin loyalists who are seeking to challenge the junta. TRT leader Chaturon Chaisang has condemned the Council for National Security (CNS) for deliberately slowing the process of party registration. He said, “It is a deliberate tactic to delay the process in order to eradicate and destroy those who oppose the CNS, especially those who used to be TRT members.” The Bangkok Post also reported that “about 60 former members of Thai Rak Thai from throughout Thailand have formed the group named ‘Love Thaksin, No Dictatorship’ with support from labourers and taxi drivers”, and with leadership from Nisit Sinthuprai (ex-MP of Roi Et) and Paijit Srivorakarn (ex-MP of Nakhon Phanom).

Former Roi Et MP Nirand Namuang-rak plans to introduce the new group after which they would “join the PTV rally at Sanam Luang”. Additionally, the group “will collect signatures of those still supporting” Thaksin. Nirand estimates at least 14 million people will sign the petition.

Of course, other political groups are also competing to win popular favour. The Nation said that the Democrat Party has already “vowed to restore political normalcy, ensure a robust economy and to bring about good governance as political activities start to return to normal”. These points have been repeatedly announced by the Democrats since the party was exonerated from electoral fraud allegations. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva declared, “The Democrats are ready to advance the country forward for a new future.” The Matchima group leader Somsak Thepsuthin has also predicted four major political parties –the Democrat, Chart Thai, Mahachon and Matchima parties.

As to the ongoing rumours whether the junta will form a political party, the Council for National Security (CNS) has vehemently denied this. The Bangkok Post reported CNS secretary-general Winai Phattiyakul as saying, “I don't know about the Rak Chart party (name of the alleged junta party). I just heard the name from the media.” CNS chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin condemned the allegations as he was “concerned that some media figures had tried to link him to a new party”. He stressed, “There's no truth it it,'' he said.” There have been several stories. They are without grounds and my name has been mentioned without my knowledge.”

On a separate note, the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), Prasong Soonsiri, has criticised monks “who began a week-long fast in front of Parliament on Monday to press for Buddhism to be the national religion”, the Bangkok Post reported. He declared himself impervious to the monks’ “intimidation”, adding, “Monks should not do this. They should use their wisdom and consider what the problems of this country really are. They should not think only about their own benefit.” (7 June 2007)

Sources:

Pro-Thaksin group will oppose junta (Bangkok Post, 7 June 2007)

Bangkok supports lifting of political ban (Bangkok Post, 7 June 2007)

Groups unite to oust CNS (Bangkok Post, 7 June 2007)

CNS denies setting up political party (Bangkok Post, 7 June 2007)

Registration delay upsets TRT (Nation, 7 June 2007)

We are ready: Abhisit (Nation, 7 June 2007)

Sonthi: Military won't form political party(Bangkok Post, 6 June 2007)

Cabinet to lift ban on political activities(Bangkok Post, 6 June 2007)

Lifting the Ban (Wall Street Journal, 6 June 2007)

Ex-TRT members waste no time in regrouping (Nation, 6 June 2007)

Thai Rak Thai looks to be breaking apart (Nation, 6 June 2007)

Monks stir ill feeling (Nation, 6 June 2007)