Don't forget fringe parties in the election

Don't forget fringe parties in the election

Thinkakaochaovilai members register the party for the election on April 4, and they get No.46. If elected, the party pledges to promote the role of the Sangha in Thailand and the teaching of morality in schools. It also wants to establish a Ministry of Religion. (Photo: Thinkakaochaovilai Party)
Thinkakaochaovilai members register the party for the election on April 4, and they get No.46. If elected, the party pledges to promote the role of the Sangha in Thailand and the teaching of morality in schools. It also wants to establish a Ministry of Religion. (Photo: Thinkakaochaovilai Party)

A total of 70 political parties with 4,781 candidates are contesting 400 MP seats, and 1,898 candidates from 67 political parties are vying for 100 list-MP seats in the general election on May 14.

Nearly all the political campaigns began in earnest months ago and intensified following the House dissolution on March 20. Apart from the five prominent plus smaller ones in the coalition and opposition, a raft of small parties -- some of which are almost unknown -- have not come under the radar of local media, academics and political pundits. Yet, under close scrutiny, some of their platforms are not far from the big league. Truth be told, quite of few of them appear very idealistic, progressive and radical, with some bordering on sci-fi with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI).

These unknown parties have big dreams and mighty projects to give Thailand an all-around facelift. In a nutshell, they all want to give more money to their voters, better education, free medicare, and make Thailand greener. If all campaign pledges from all the parties could be implemented, Thailand would become a great country with AI assisting all government works and daily life. Ordinary citizens would enjoy government support in all areas of their lives, from cradle to grave. But nowhere in any of their manifestos do they say where they will get the funding. No parties are willing to say that people will still have to pay taxes.

According to the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), the total cost of the populist projects offered by the nine main political parties in this general election will be 3.4 trillion baht. The populist projects promised by the two most famous and likely winners will cost 2 trillion baht to realise, according to the TDRI's survey released in March.

Here are some of the smaller unknown parties which have quite forceful platforms.

The most distinctive of all is party No.65, the Plean Anakot Party (Changing Future), which has one noble purpose of uplifting the livelihood of people with disabilities. Almost half of the estimated 4.5 million disabled have not yet been registered and have no access to government services and incentives. This party is the newest on the Thai political scene, as it was just set up one month before the registration deadline expired in early April.

If the Ruamjaithai (United Thai Heart) Party No.23, were to win a landslide victory, the country's energy sector, including oil, gas, and electricity, would be nationalised. The party promises to share all the profits with the people and also to set up depots of inexpensive commodities in every district. If the Sendai Party (Thread), No.64, gets to be part of the next government, the tiny party will oppose "financial freebies" in all forms. Most importantly, it is keen to eliminate all sensai or "connections" in Thai society because they do not allow all Thais to compete on an equal basis. That explains why the so-called dek sen, or "children with connections", have many of the key positions in the Thai bureaucracy.

For No.2, the New Democrat Party (Prachatipatai Mai), one of the priorities is to have local elders in each village serve as shamans (moh pee/poh yai ka jam), who could soothe common folk in difficult times in rural areas. Others also have laser-focused objectives. For instance, the Anakot Thai (Future Thailand) Party, No.10, is fielding just one candidate, but it is pledging to make Thailand free of PM2.5 toxic dust and strengthen small retailers, taking all the populist messaging from various parties.

Not to be outdone, Thailand also has its own Green Party, No.15, but with a Thai characteristic. The party boasts ten tree-related innovative strategies, including establishing a so-called tree bank, tree lotto, a tree mortgage unit, financial incentives for tree growers, bio-fuel promotion, and green real estate. On the other hand, the Plean (Change) Party, No.20, bases its platform on opportunities created by sales of the national lottery, which will increase to 10 billion number combinations. With the revenue, the party proposes to build an "opportunities bank" so that every citizen and independent entrepreneur can get small loans to launch their start-ups.

One party that would take care of every newborn child is No.9, the Palang (Power) Party, with policies encompassing all measures that would make Thai citizens proud and unique. At every important juncture of life, the party would provide financial assistance to all. The Thai Smart Party, No.67, is the only party promising to use all forms of technology to transform society into a developed nation. For the Thai Prompt Party, No.28, AI would be used to transform Thailand's three pillars -- political, economic, and societal. The party advocates politics of the people, by the people and for the people -- whatever it means. One trendy idea comes from No.33, the Thai Pen Nueng Party (Thai No.1), which supports the legalisation of E-cigarettes.

Among them, the most notable is No.61, the Klong Thai (Thai Canal) Party. The name says it all, as its key objective is to dig the Kra Isthmus to make Thailand rich, bringing in revenue of 20 trillion baht, according to the party's estimate. With the money, the party plans to make the country debt-free in five years. All Thai citizens will receive free education from nursery level through to university up to PhD level and free medical services regardless of the disease. All Thais over 60 would receive a monthly subsidy of 10,000 baht. Unsurprisingly, when the party announced its inception and campaign, its motto was "Mission Impossible". It remains so today.

For No.46, the Thinkakaochaovilai Party, the main objective is to promote the role of the Sangha in Thailand, which in turn will promote the teaching of moral lessons in schools at all levels. It wants to establish a Ministry of Religion and promote all forms of religious rites to promote tourism. On the opposite end, the Phandin Dharma Party (Dharma Land), No.34, wants to make Buddhism the national religion with the establishment of a Buddhist Bank. This same party also proposes to build the world's first Metaverse university.

In Thai politics, a single-digit number is considered lucky and sacred. With the exception of the Bhumjaithai Party, a major coalition party, which got No.7, the rest of the single-digit numbers were chosen by smaller and less known parties. Fortunately, the Election Commission (EC) does not allow the parties to trade their preferred numbers for profit. Otherwise, they could have made tonnes of money. Interestingly enough, some Thai voters also follow the Western belief that considers No.13, which belongs to the Thai Chana (Winning Thai) Party, an unlucky number. But the party's members are not afraid and say that in Thai culture, the number is considered lucky.

The 47-page electoral guidelines prepared by the EC, which have been sent to all households, do not contain any mention of foreign policy issues by competing political parties. This phenomenon is indicative of Thailand's obsession with its domestic domain, which makes it seem as though it is living in a vacuum. Over the past weeks, numerous debates on all Thai-language media platforms have been lively but completely devoid of discourse on diplomacy, human rights and the role of civil society organisations (only one English language programme touched on these issues last Thursday). They don't believe that these issues are a vote-getter.

The EC will take several weeks to complete its verification of all the votes. The new prime minister is expected to be announced in mid-July, selected from the 63 potential candidates proposed by 43 political parties.

Kavi Chongkittavorn is a veteran journalist on regional affairs.

Kavi Chongkittavorn

A veteran journalist on regional affairs

Kavi Chongkittavorn is a veteran journalist on regional affairs

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