Opinion: What If Pita Is Rejected by the Junta-appointed Senate & Street Protests Resume?

Move Forward Party leader and PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat in Phuket province on June 9, 2023.
Move Forward Party leader and PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat in Phuket province on June 9, 2023.

With the parliament to reconvene on July 3, the voting for the new prime minister is not too far away now. Some prominent junta-appointed senators continue to claim that Move Forward Party PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat will not be getting their support, or enough votes, and the possibility that Pita will not be chosen as the next PM is a lingering fear.

For weeks now, some protest leaders, including monarchy-reform protest co-leader Arnon Nampa have been reminding protesters to be prepared to take to the streets en masse in case of such eventuality.

If and when that happens, we can expect protracted street protests and no side will give in easily. A clash between pro and anti-Pita demonstrators on the streets can never be ruled out, in fact it should be expected, judging from history. The so-called ‘third hand’ or hired instigators will then make sure there will be random attacks of explosions, mostly at night, causing injuries and even deaths, so the stage will be set, and events cited as a pretext for another military intervention.

With another military coup, the future can at least bifurcate into two of the following scenarios:

First, the army succeeds anew after political leaders, activists and a few persistent journalists were rounded up for temporary detention, euphemistically called “attitude adjustment,” and the tens of thousands of protesters on the streets reluctantly obeyed when they were told to go home with a new general election promised sooner than later.

This interregnum could last up to 5 years as we saw when then army chief Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha staged the May 2014 coup. This will be the same old vicious cycle, a miserable loop that will plunge Thailand deeper into a state of political despair.

The second scenario will see protesters, particularly young protesters who came of (political) age when they joined the monarchy-reform movement three years ago in 2020 refusing to go home and the situation getting out of control. Tens of thousands were willing to be arrested and detained and there is eventually not enough space to detain them all.

The tide eventually turns against the coup makers and some soldiers refuse to follow the illegitimate order while the silent majority start speaking out against the coup. The media refused to portray the coup makers as a well-intended savior of the last resort – as they have mostly done in the past over the decades, one coup maker after another.

This second scenario eventually sees a failed coup attempt and a successful people’s revolt that may see the army sent to the barrack, ushered army reform, and strictly placed the armed forces under civilian oversight and supremacy as well as reforms to modernize the monarchy institution in line with the twentieth century. Under this scenario, the controversial lese majeste law will be amended, and more.

The young and politicized voters, including those still too young to vote, are the key variable here and if there is a coup attempt in the months ahead, it will also be their biggest political test.

They will get the Thailand that they deserved and that will depend on the amount of their fortitude and resolve not to fail like what the older generations have failed them.

As for the Move Forward Party, ever since it was still the Future Forward Party, it was clear that some key elements within the party were not ideologically driven to not just seeking to become part of the powers that be, but to alter the status quo and Thailand as a result. Pita being rejected as PM may then just be the right ignition their supporters needed in order to push for a fundamental political and social change.