Young protesters add fuel to fire lit by extinguished Future Forward

Young protesters add fuel to fire lit by extinguished Future Forward

Rising from the ashes: On Friday, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit visited Surin to campaign ahead of the local elections next month.
Rising from the ashes: On Friday, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit visited Surin to campaign ahead of the local elections next month.

After first being inspired by the now-defunct Future Forward Party (FFP), young protesters are now looking to the past as they revive the spirit of the 1932 Siamese Revolution, a forum was told.

The FFP became the third-largest party with 6.3 million votes in the election on March 24 last year. However in February this year, the Constitutional Court dissolved the party and banned its executives from politics for 10 years for accepting 191.3 million baht from an illegitimate source.

Duncan McCargo, the director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen, said the FFP provoked a crisis of faith in the country's power structures among the young.

"The FFP was banned, but has morphed into the Progressive Movement to inspire this kind of change which might take a longer time. It is not about a party any more. The party went on with Move Forward. What we have seen since since is a radical agenda of being disruptors taken up by a lot of young people, but it is no longer really Move Forward or Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit] who is leading the initiative.

"The disruption proposed by Future Forward always had its limitations. It was crafted in such a way to be orange to appeal to the yellow-red divide, and be a broad umbrella to accommodate a lot of people. It is a different kind of politics that has emerged since June when Thailand began to go in a rather different direction," he told the audience.

His remarks came at the launch of the book titled Future Forward: The Rise and Fall of a Thai Political Party at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand last week.

Since June, protesters have come out to press for three demands -- the ouster of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, constitutional amendment and monarchy reform. They plan to gather at the Crown Property Bureau on Nov 25 after lawmakers rejected a charter amendment bill proposed by the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform, better known as iLaw.

When asked what will happen next, he wondered whether the student-led movement will gain wider support.

"The lack of consensus is not likely to go away any time soon. Progressives may eventually triumph, but that could be some way off. You might have to wait a number of years for a generational shift to take place if that is the ultimate destination," he said.

Anyarat Chattharakul, the research associate at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, said students, though inspired by the FFP, are now taking matters into their own hands.

"If there was going to be another party and a free and fair election, the FFP would be one of the models, but we are too old. We don't understand the imagination of Thai youth any more. It will be an improved version of the FFP. Co-founders Thanathorn, Piyabutr [Saengkanokkul], and Pannika [Wanich] will be too conservative for young voters. I think this is a very good trend," she said.

Pitch Pongsawat, a lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University, echoed their views and dismissed claims that Mr Thanathorn is the mastermind behind the protests.

"What is going on is a revolutionary movement beyond the imagination of the FFP. This was unimaginable last year. The party didn't really mention reform of the monarchy, but it did open Pandora's Box," he said.

Asst Prof Pitch said young protesters are now returning to 1932 [the Siamese Revolution led by Khana Ratsadon] for their idea of what a constitutional monarchy should be like.

"It is different from the 1997 constitutional reform. Now it is the original meaning of 1932 when you want to put the monarchy in check. You didn't see that from the FFP in parliament. It was criticised by progressives a lot. This is a new thing," he said.

When asked where street protests will lead, he said demonstrators are not going to overthrow the system, but create conditions for the elite to negotiate.

"You can now see emerging elites who are also talking about monarchy reform, although in a different manner … They are trying to find another kind of compromise," he said.

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