Stop salvo against FFP

Stop salvo against FFP

According to the unofficial and partial results issued by the Election Commission (EC), the Future Forward Party (FFP) received almost six million votes and at least 80 seats in the House of Representatives in Sunday's general election. That makes it the third-largest party with about 18% of the popular vote.

A raft of pending and future legal cases against the party and its leaders, however, indicates that its success in capturing the popular imagination, particularly among young people, has led to a counterattack that might lead to the party's imminent dissolution and its leaders' criminal prosecution.

Thailand has been down this road before, and it is a rough one that leads only in circles and ultimately goes nowhere. Numerous elected officials, including two former prime ministers, Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, have been removed from office and face criminal charges.

Whatever the merits of the cases, they have served to give the impression to the world that the rule of law is subject to the whims of unelected officials and that the justice process has been exploited as a tool to obtain the results that the ballot box could not.

Perhaps most importantly, they have alienated and enraged the millions of Thais who feel the military-led establishment has stacked the decks against them and will go to any lengths to preserve its power, privilege and control of the country's wealth.

FFP leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and two senior party members were accused of instigating public disorder by "spreading false information online" last June during a live stream on the party's Facebook page and in a post written on Mr Thanathorn's Facebook page that criticised the military regime. On Tuesday, the prosecutor's office postponed its decision whether to pursue the case until April 26, although there were indications it could drag on beyond that.

Meanwhile, FFP deputy leader Lt Gen Phongsakon Rotchompoo and five other people were charged with another computer crime -- "damaging government agencies and national security" -- by sharing a widely disseminated report that ministers had spent 82,000 baht of government welfare funds on coffee. Lt Gen Phongsakon said he deleted the post as soon as it he realised it was untrue, and apologised publicly.

The EC is also investigating the party for "outside influence" -- which could lead to the party's disbandment -- after a candidate from the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party asked her supporters to vote for the FFP.

Despite the EC's dismissal of a case over incorrect information in Mr Thanathorn's online biography, harassment of the party seems to be on the rise.

The emergence of the FFP as a potent political force over the past year has caught many by surprise. Those who wish to keep real power and wealth in the hands of the few have correctly identified the party as a major threat to its dominant position -- one with many of the egalitarian and progressive ideas of Pheu Thai, but without the baggage of the Shinawatra political machine, despite the sometimes crude efforts of conservative Thai media to manufacture a link between Thaksin and Mr Thanathorn.

These ongoing cases against FFP are groundless and obviously politically motivated. Banning Mr Thanathorn from politics or dissolving the party would create a new martyr and a deep resentment among millions of Thai citizens that could lead to far greater upheavals in the medium term. More importantly, it is plain wrong. For the good of all Thais, rich and poor, this political onslaught via the justice process should stop.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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