Is it really time to 'seize the power?'

Is it really time to 'seize the power?'

Future Forward Party (FFP) secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul believes that 2020 is the year ripe for the people to be their own masters of the land and rise up to seize power from the ruling elites that no longer have legitimacy to govern.

His reference to "people being their own masters of the land", which appeared in his Facebook post on Dec 31, sounds familiar to me.

It reminds me of a famous poem authored by a former well-known Thai student activists and poet, Visa Kanthap, who dared to challenge the military junta led by Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn to demand a democratic constitution in 1973.

The key part of the poem reads: "When the sky is bright and golden, the people will become their own masters of the land".

More than 40 years on, Visa's dream is still very much a dream as the people -- I mean the majority of Thais -- are still not the masters of the land and are still struggling to make a living.

So what makes Mr Piyabutr, a France-educated law professor and chief ideologist of the FFP, think 2020 will be the watershed year for the people to rise up to claim their rights?

Obviously, Mr Piyabutr is influenced by Antonio Francesco Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician who lived during 1891-1937.

Here are two quotes from Gramsci: "The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters."

And: "Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. In the new order, socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society."

Gramsci's first quote is reflected in Mr Piyabutr's Facebook post: "2019 was the year of the fragility of the rulers who no longer have any legitimacy to rule, but they will use their power for the last push to retain their status quo. 2020 will be the year of the struggle of the people -- the real masters of this land. This is the right moment for the seizure."

Gramsci's second quote about capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media resembles the FFP's approach to schools and universities to woo support among young minds about the party's political and social concepts such as the elimination of mandatory conscription.

No other parties have ever reached out to the young Thais like the FFP has been doing. This is not against the law, but whether it is appropriate or not is another matter.

Former Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvigrom, an arch-rival of the FFP, was the first who sounded the alarm about the party's unorthodox approach allegedly to "brainwash" young minds about the party's anti-military, anti-establishment and anti-culture ideology.

2020 may be a year of hardship for many grassroots and low income-earners because of economic slowdown which has forced many businesses to shut down, and the looming drought.

It may be a year of political instability characterised by protests by the party's followers and other groups of people for different purposes and, probably, political changes.

But a year for the people to be their own masters of the land and to assert their power? I doubt it.

Unfortunately though, it will be a fateful year for the FFP whose fate now hangs with the Constitutional Court, which is due to hold its hearing on Jan 21 on the complaint filed against the party by a former adviser to the Ombudsman, Natthaporn Toprayoon who alleges the party is attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy. It is also in trouble for accepting a huge loan which allegedly lies outside electoral rules.

Hopefully, the court will not rush into concluding the case without giving the party a chance to defend itself and be given a fair trial.

A guilty verdict means the party will face dissolution, and the party's leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Mr Piyabutr and the entire executive board banned from politics for five years.

A lot of people may have sympathy for the party and may resent the double-standard treatment against the party. But for the resentment to escalate into mass protests is overstated.

The time for the people to be their own masters of the land is yet to come and no one seems to know when.

However, the fire for change has already been set in the minds of quite a few people and it needs to be kept burning until its explosion.

Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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