Opposition Ready to Scrutinize Prayuth Government: Anti-Junta Parties

Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, center, at the post-election politics symposium on June 14, 2019 at Thammasat University.
Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, center, at the post-election politics symposium on June 14, 2019 at Thammasat University.

BANGKOK — Though short of forming government, anti-junta parties have pledged to act as a rigorous opposition to keep the incoming government led by junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha on its toes.

“We will intensely scrutinize the government in parliament,” promised Pheu Thai Party representative and former justice minister Phongthep Thepkanjana, speaking at a Friday symposium on post-election politics organized by Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science.

Undeterred that the pro-junta Phalang Pracharath Party is in power, Phongthep pledged that the opposition will take the government to task in parliament on a weekly basis.

The senior Pheu Thai member expressed some concerns, however, that the incoming administration will allow the junta to live on in new forms, including the junta-appointed senate and the presence of old faces such as Prayuth.

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, in attendance with representatives from four parties in total, echoed Phongthep’s cautious optimism by pointing to younger generations as a source of hope.

The upstart politician cited a recent scandal where police visited Chumpholphonphisai School in Nong Khai province on Thursday, after five Grade 12 students creatively adapted flower arrangements traditionally presented to teachers in an annual ceremony into a stunt protesting Prayuth’s second term as prime minister.

Read: Police Visit Students Behind Anti-Junta Teacher Appreciation Day Stunt

“Many people are becoming politically alert and it won’t be easy to snuff this. Every year, 700,000 to 800,000 [people] reach the legal adult age. This is the new phase of Thai society,” said Thanathorn.

The Future Forward leader warned, however, that Thailand has failed to reach a consensus on who should hold power in society. He also expressed concern that the junta-sponsored constitution and junta-appointed “independent” organizations – such as the Election Commission – will prevent Thailand from democratizing.

On the defensive was Phalang Pracharath MP Vichian Cahavalit, who urged those opposed to Prayuth to accept the decision of voters.

“No one can suppress the power of the people. They have chosen [us]. If you say no, then you are looking down on the voices of the people,” Vichian told the crowd of some hundred listeners. “If we only accept [the result] when we win and not when we lose, where will this country head?”

The final speaker, pro-junta Thai Local Power Party leader Kowit Puang-ngam, said his party’s decision to join the pro-junta coalition was motivated by a desire to see the country move forward and decentralize. He urged the public to accept differing political views.

Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, right, at the post-election politics symposium on June 14, 2019 at Thammasat University.
Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, right, at the post-election politics symposium on June 14, 2019 at Thammasat University.