BANGKOK — Mongkol Samerpap arrived to the Government Office Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road at 3am on Friday morning to make sure no one stole his name.
His Thai Nation Power Party was among the first of 42 new political groups to put their names down to signal their intent to field candidates in the next election – and clamor for attention on what was effectively its first day of campaigning.
Most arrived early in the morning on the first day new party names could be registered to insure they weren’t taken by others, as registration with the Election Commission was on a first-come, first-served basis.
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Some arrived well-prepared with their policy platforms detailed in leaflets while others chose to collar reporters and outline them verbally.
The Thai Nation Power Party’s main issue is pushing for a 5,000 baht monthly stipend for the elderly and free education through to the undergraduate level, said party co-founder
More severe punishment for violating the already-harsh lese majeste law was a central plank in the newly registered Siam Democrat Party platform.
“The monarchy is above everything. We will demand that PM Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha be more serious about those defaming the monarchy,” said Nopparut Vorachitkul, the party’s secretary general.
Nopparut said, adding that the lese majeste law, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment term might have to be made more severe.
“Cases should also be sped up, so they will set an example to others,” said Nopparut, who wore a suit jacket with a tag containing an image of the king.
Other policies laid out by new parties included reconciling social divisions, fighting corruption, offering fresh alternatives and making various reforms.
Forty-one parties were registered as of 1:30pm, and registration will continue on working days today onward. To be certified to contest the election, the parties must meet other minimum requirements, such as having 500 members spread out in four regions of the country.
All new parties will have to seek permission from the ruling junta to convene their first general meeting. This would have to be done through the Election Commission, acting commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn.
It’s unclear how long it will take for the commission to make such approval. Existing parties will be able to re-certify themselves next month.
Nopparut, a former elected member of the opposition Pheu Thai Party which was overthrown by the military four years ago, said he is willing to be patient. He said the military must take security issues into consideration first.
Watcharin Srithaporn, a co-founder of Phure Chart Thai Party meanwhile said his party is all about national reconciliation.
He said the party can work with any other so long as they work toward reconciliation. The party doesn’t rule out supporting an unelected MP as future prime minister, a reference to the speculation that junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha will seek to stay on as prime minister after the election he most recently promised will happen next February.
At this stage of the game, after nearly four years of military rule, it seemed premature for anyone to stake out any potentially controversial positions on who should serve as prime minister.
The Ruam Jai Thai Party, which also registered today, likewise would not rule out supporting an outsider PM candidate, saying it was too early to take a position.
“It’s up to the situation at the time,” party leader Noppadol Amornwech said.
Noppadol did seem to hint support for Prayuth, as he said the party wants a prime minister who will “make people happy,” a call-back to the early days of junta rule when its operating slogan was “returning happiness to the Thai people.”
The reincarnated Palang Dharma Party – now the New Palang Dharma Party – said they’d wait and see, but promised to promote a “Buddhist” version of democracy.
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Update: Story updated to reflect the final tally of 41 new parties registering their names.