New Thai party defies junta, resumes collecting donations
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. –