Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit was an MP for a day. Pannika Wanich and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul were MPs for less than a year. Future Forward went from the third-largest political party with 81 parliamentary seats to court-order dissolution on 21 February 2020.
With party executives banned from politics and MPs’ defection, what remained formed the Move Forward Party, with 51 parliamentary seats.
Thus the quick rise and fall of Future Forward.
But that isn’t the end of the story
As Thanatorn said in 2019, he would go to prison for the cause; he would die for the cause. As such, stripping him of MP status and dissolving his political party wasn’t going to stop him. What is the cause?
To put it succinctly, transform Thailand into a democratic constitutional monarchy with the king as the head of state. Which, to Thailand’s hardcore traditionalists, is just “overthrowing the monarchy” misspelled.
And so the young crusaders formed the Progressive Movement.
They have been assisting the Move Forward Party in laying the groundwork for local elections, which will happen whenever General Prayut Chan-o-cha allows it to happen.
They are ever more vocal and supportive of the pro-democracy movement, with their usual straight-talk style, which the “poo-yai” in society find aggressive and improper.
Short of prison or death, chances are they will not stop fighting for changes. Judging by the last election, 6,254,726 Thai voters support them in their crusade. Furthermore, with the burgeoning youth movement, their support basis is growing.
The weight of change is upon the traditional establishment
There has always been an unspoken agreement in Thai politics. When the establishment says you’re out, you humbly bow out. That changed with Thaksin Shinawatra. Ousted in a military coup in 2006, in 2019, his political party, Pheu Thai, still won the national election. In fact, his political party won every national election in between. He won’t humbly bow out.
Likewise, banning the young politicians of the former Future Forward Party and threatening them with criminal charges have not worked. They continue to fight on, becoming ever more vocal.
The following is their latest movement.
On 3 September, along with other pro-democracy supporters, Thanatorn went to the prison that held human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok.
Before the trip, he posted this on his Twitter account:
“The dream of Anon and Mike is not a crime. When the justice system fails, the people rise. Do not let them fight alone.”
On 4 September, one day ahead of the high school student protest at the Education Ministry, he posted this:
“They [the government] won’t give in to even for the simplest demand, which is to stop persecuting the people. Do we seriously think they would let us have a new charter that belongs to the people?”
The hashtag he used was #สู้เป็นไทถอยเป็นทาส (fight and be free, retreat and be slaves).
Using the same hashtag, Pannika posted on 4 September about the pro-democracy protestors:
“The only weapon they have is the story that has been sealed for many decades.
All they have done is to use… paints.
All they have done is to use… paper signs.
All they have done is to use… megaphones.
All they have done is to use… microphones.
All they have done is to use… loudspeakers.
These are truly all the weapons that they have.”
On 5 September, she joined the student protest at the Education Ministry. She posted about the students:
“They are the generation that sees humans as equal. They will no longer bow to the culture of authoritarianism.”
Meanwhile, Piyabutr continues to push for legal measures to hit delete on the 250 junta-appointed senators’ power. As well, on 5 September, he posted:
“Article 116 has become a tool to harass those who oppose the government. Both its wording and enforcement are problematic. Police officers’ duty is not to act as the boss commanded, but to use justice in enforcing the law. Because every baht and satang that you receive is from the people’s tax, not your boss’s private fund.”
The question for the traditional establishment then becomes: What’s the next move?
Hence, rumors of a military coup swirl as is usual in Thailand, when there’s a political conflict. Some people dismiss it as just rumors, but that’s also what many pundits believed ahead of the 2014 military coup until General Prayut proved otherwise.
There’s always a 50/50 percent chance of a military coup. If history tells us anything, turning the clock back to reset at zero is how the power-that-be “solve problems.”
This political conflict is a chess game, with the opposing players staring each other down, anticipating the next move.