Opinion: Let’s Not Succumb to Political Hysteria

Leaders of Future Forward Party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, speak March 24 at a news conference in Bangkok.

Re•tention: Pravit RojanaphrukWitch hunt, paranoia and hysteria is gripping Juntaland.

This time, the witches – or demons – are the Future Forward Party duo comprised of leader Thanathorn Juangroogruangkit and the party secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. The people enraged by them believe they want to turn Thailand into a republic, or at least overthrow the monarchy.

As author Stacy Schiff of the book “The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal and Hysteria in 1692 Salem” said of Salem puritans: “They defined themselves by what offended them”.

What offends those opposed to Thanathorn and Piyabutr is this: when a law lecturer at Thammasat University before becoming a politician last year, Piyabutr was a vocal opponent of the draconian lese majeste law and spoke critically about the monarchy.

Meanwhile Thanathorn (once a major shareholder and board member of Matichon Group, of which Khaosod English is part) helps to fund Same Sky Magazine, known for its critical coverage of the monarchy.

Fast Forward to the Party’s March 24 electoral success, where it swept 80 MP seats and became the third most successful political party. The two have become a real perceived threat.

As I type these words, all sorts of accusations, both true and false, are spreading along with hate speech on social media.

Where will this lead Thailand?

Thailand will get what it deserves. People have the choice to remain rational, calm and tolerant, or succumb to hysteria that may lead to a political purge – if not a new round of deadly political confrontation.

Over six million people voted for the party. The duo are public darlings and represent hope for a significant number of new voters. The public voted for the party to bring about change.

It’s unclear how Future Forward supporters will react if the two are handed guilty sentences, with Thanathorn charged with sedition for allegedly helping anti-junta activists “flee” back in 2015 and Piyabutr with violating the Computer Crimes Act.

Before the elections, the party reaffirmed time and again that it will not touch the controversial lese majeste law, which is a disappointment to this writer and some others. Yet it seems that even this assurance is not enough for those who want to prevent the two from entering politics as representatives of the people.

Some are pushing people like Piyabutr to leave Thailand, as if this country belongs to them alone. Never mind that the country has a population of nearly 70 million people.

Others are playing the anti-Chinese card, such as former supreme court judge Chuchart Srisaeng who wrote on Facebook on Monday that Thanathorn’s politics can be explained by his ancestors not being “real Thai.”

Things will likely get ugly in the weeks ahead as political parties from both sides of the political divide compete to form a governing coalition.

Responsible Thai citizens owe it to themselves and to their society to critically appraise cheap character assassinations. They should refuse to play a part in sinking Thailand into a deeper pool of irrationality, hate and political hysteria.

People can absolutely disagree with the political views of Thanathorn and Piyabutr. They can oppose the party’s policies. But any critical assessment or opposition should be based on facts rather than hearsay, on reasoning rather than hysteria – otherwise the biggest victim will not be Future Forward, but Thai society itself.