Opinion: The Fear of Pita and Move Forward Gov’t Explained

Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat waves to his supporters in Samut Prakan province on May 26, 2023.
Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat waves to his supporters in Samut Prakan province on May 26, 2023.

The Move Forward Party is new, and it has never been in power before. The  unknown factor has driven some to fear what is to come when (and if) the party is in charge, particularly if you are the elites and the upper middle class for the following reasons.

Imagine yourself being the owner or in charge of one of Thailand’s largest corporations. Your company, or conglomerate, has established all the connections with the old guards in the world of politics, the bureaucracy, and the top echelon of Thai society.

Your company, or conglomerate, has achieved a de facto oligarchy status in the market and you know how to deal with old-style politicians. Move Forward is an unknown quantity and has promised to spread wealth and create new opportunities for smaller businesses, as well as significantly increase the minimum wage, and suddenly you feel you are not sure on how to deal with them or whether your status quo can be maintained when they are in power or not.

This explains the reluctance or even opposition among some of the owners of big conglomerates in Thailand. Two weeks ago, Boonyasit Chokwatana, one of Thailand’s biggest tycoons and chairman of consumer goods giant Sahapat Group warned that Thailand risks becoming like Ukraine if the new government is in power, and that Pita is increasingly resembling Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Last week, when I asked Move Forward PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat about Boonyasit’s remark, Pita brushed it aside saying there was no need to defend himself to such comparison – (thus suggesting it is far-fetched).

It may be far-fetched, but perception is reality and for many of the established elite and big businesses, they fear the old and familiar system may be undermined if Pita becomes PM.

If you have no greater ideology of wanting to see Thailand becoming a more equitable society, why take the risk and embrace Pita and Move Forward government? Would not it be ‘safer’ to stick to the motto “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” even if many poor Thais are broke and some believe the system itself is also broken?

Even if you are just a member of the upper middle class, you may not want to see change under the Move Forward government as well, particularly if you’re not keen on wanting to see Thailand becoming a more equal society.

The middle class are not the majority in Thailand and the upper middle class are a tiny minority – say roughly among the top 10 percent of the Thai population. This means when you walk on an ordinary Thai pavement, anywhere that wealth is not particularly well concentrated, you could sense that you’re better off or ‘superior’ than nine out of 10 of the people who you walked pass.

Unlike in Japan, South Korea or the United States where the vast majority identified themselves as the middle and there is a pretense that everyone is more or less equal, no such pretense exists in Thailand. The car you drive, the way you dress, the school and university you went to and the part of Bangkok you live in will make sure you feel superior to 90 percent of the rest of the Thai population.

If you are keen on wanting to feel “exclusive”, by nature you have to exclude the mass. How can you maintain your self-perceived sense of superiority and exclusivity when more people are equal or like you? That is why the Move Forward Party’s logo is indeed disturbing – it is a slant pyramid and can be interpreted as suggesting the party’s goal is to ensure those at the apex of the society will have to make way and move a little bit lower while the masses move up.

That is already a concession from the logo of its original party, Future Forward, which was disbanded in 2019, and had a perfectly reverse pyramid as its logo.