New Thai party de­fies junta, re­sumes col­lect­ing dona­tions

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

A NEW Thai po­lit­i­cal party says it will re­sume ac­cept­ing po­lit­i­cal dona­tions de­spite be­ing or­dered to stop by elec­tion of­fi­cials after it racked up more than half a mil­lion dol­lars on the first day of its launch.

Fu­ture For­ward, led by young, charis­matic bil­lion­aire en­tre­pre­neur Thanathorn Juan­groon­gru­angkit, is emerg­ing as a pow­er­ful new party ahead of over­due elec­tions ex­pected next year.

More than US$615,000 (K974.8 mil­lion) went to the party in the form of dona­tions, mem­ber­ship fees and mer­chan­dise sales after it was of­fi­cially launched at the start of this month on a plat­form of grass­roots democrati­sa­tion and pro­gres­sive val­ues, it said.

Fu­ture For­ward had to halt some fundrais­ing, though, after Thai­land’s elec­tion com­mis­sion re­port­edly said the party could not ac­cept dona­tions with­out ap­proval from the rul­ing mil­i­tary junta, which has yet to fully lift a ban on po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

Fu­ture For­ward spokesper­son Pan­nika Wanich told VOA on Wed­nes­day her party was on the verge of an­nounc­ing it would defy any or­der from the junta that bans di­rect fundrais­ing. The junta is of­fi­cially named the Na­tional Coun­cil for Peace and Or­der, or NCPO.

“So, just yes­ter­day, we had an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing dis­cussing this is­sue. And we de­cided what we’ll do ac­cord­ing to the nor­mal law, not the NCPO or­der, and we’ll con­tinue all fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” she said.

“We are fully aware that the NCPO can do any­thing, ac­tu­ally, to us. But if we don’t push for nor­mal­ity in pol­i­tics and do­ing po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns – it is four months be­fore elec­tions – if you still ban po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties ex­cept [to] re­cruit new mem­bers, that is non­sense,” she said.

Last month, Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-ocha, who seized power in a 2014 mil­i­tary coup, en­acted laws that ef­fec­tively set a dead­line for long-de­manded elec­tions no later than May 2019 and as early as Fe­bru­ary.

The 2014 coup brought down then­prime Min­is­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra, the sis­ter of bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man-cumpoliti­cian Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, who him­self was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Thai pol­i­tics has long been dom­i­nated by in­fight­ing in­volv­ing Thaksin and his “red shirt” al­lies, who have won ev­ery elec­tion since 2001, and his op­po­nents aligned with the pro-monar­chy “yel­low shirt” move­ment, who have re­peat­edly or­ches­trated their force­ful demise.

The emer­gence of a new party di­vorced from this ac­ri­mo­nious du­op­oly has gar­nered ex­cite­ment among those weary of the strife.

Prayut has yet to name a party that he plans to run with and is tech­ni­cally barred from con­test­ing the elec­tion, though there are ways in which he could cir­cum­vent that re­stric­tion. –

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