Opinion: An Open Letter To Move Forward Party Supporters

Leader of Move Forward Party and PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat during PM vote at the Parliament on Jul. 13, 2023.
Leader of Move Forward Party and PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat during PM vote at the Parliament on Jul. 13, 2023.

Short of a miracle, the prospect of Pita Limjaroenrat becoming Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister is now nil. Although his name will most likely be nominated again for a second bicameral vote this coming Wednesday, the fact that only 13 out of the 250 junta-appointed senators voted for him when he needs 55 or so votes from them means it is unofficially over even before the second vote.

I know all of you will continue to pressure the junta-appointed senators till the last minutes before the vote in a last bid effort as requested by Pita, but we all know that since these senators were indirectly chosen by the military junta, which was led by Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha who staged the May 2014 coup, and gladly accepted the post, the concept of respecting the will of the people is alien to most of them and least of their concerns.

I know it has been nine years since the May 2014 coup, but you must think about the long game and the not so small price to pay and sacrifice along the way.

You know that some of your party leaders have effectively said the party’s ultimate goal is to change Thailand into a freer, more just, and equitable society. Thus, whether Pita becomes PM or not is of secondary importance.

What is of primary importance to the continued expansion of pro-democracy forces in Thailand to the point whether no cheating, lies and/or military intervention can stop the wind of change that is already blowing and hopefully gather into an unstoppable storm of change.

I hope you did not fail to notice that the six hours or so spent on Thursday in parliament leading up to the PM vote ends up becoming a de facto no confidence debate of the controversial lese majeste law for all Thais to watch on TV and mobile phone. Such a thing was inconceivable just a decade ago.

Put the clock back further 15 to 20 years ago and only a handful, no more than 30 or so Thais, dare to openly criticize and call for the amendment if not abolition of the lese majeste law.

As one of those thirty or so people, I am happy to report that over the past three or so years since the youth-led monarchy reform movement was born, the topic of lese majeste law reform has been trending on Thai-language Twitter every month or so and thousands, many of them young Thais, dissect and discuss what is wrong with the draconian law and beyond.

While many new critics of the law, and of the monarchy, are young and mostly below the age of 30, the ultra-royalist defenders of the law who try to ensure that Thais effectively have zero right to publicly scrutinize or criticize the king are increasingly aging and one cannot even think of the name of a single young and prominent ultra-royalist to defend the law.

On the people’s side, there are at least a dozen names that I can cite off the cuff, including people like political activist Parit Chiwarak, 24, or another Parit, Oxford-educated Move Forward Party MP Parit Wacharasindhu, 30.

While I definitely have no crystal ball, time is on your side – pro-democracy young Thais and supporters of the Move Forward Party.

It may be over for “PM” Pita, but definitely not over for pro-democracy Thais. I know how disappointed, frustrated and angry you all must be since Thursday evening when your PM of choice was rejected by the unrepresented senators.

Pita was gracious enough to speak to you all in a pre-recorded video yesterday (Saturday) to say he and his Move Forward Party will support the PM candidate from the Pheu Thai Party if he fails to secure the PM post. I call for Move Forward Party supporters to put the differences between yourself and the so-called redshirt supporters of the Pheu Thai Party aside and try to make the current eight-party coalition a reality.

Thailand has been under direct and indirect military control for nine years – far too long so it is imperative that the pro-democracy camp tries its best to give government formation a chance in order to undo the poisonous and undemocratic legacies left by the military junta and steer the nation towards a new democratic transition.

In the worst case scenario – even if Move Forward Party risks ending up in the opposition camp, and/or the party eventually dissolved and Pita along with the current party executive committee banned from politics for some years by the Constitutional Court due to the party’s pledge to reform the lese majeste law being ruled by the court as being against the democratic system with the King as head of state, it is still definitely not over.

I met and spoke to one prominent young Move Forward Party and my impression is the remaining young Move Forward Party MPs are prepared to lead yet a new party. It is a long game. Shed your tears if needed but pick yourself up as patience and fortitude are needed in this long fight.