Wed, Dec 04, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Opposition leader says more protests possible in Thailand


Thailand could see street protests again if establishment forces continue to resist democratic change, said the leader of Future Forward, the nation’s most high-profile opposition party.

A flash point could come if the party is dissolved by judges next month, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said in a briefing late on Monday.

Future Forward and some of its officials face more than two dozen cases, stemming from the police, the attorney general, the Thai Constitutional Court and the Thai Election Commission, he said.

“The establishment are pushing people out,” he said in Bangkok. “They seem certain they could contain it and control it, but many think otherwise. I’m not convinced. I think this is a very dangerous gamble.”

Thanathorn, a critic of the royalist establishment’s grip on power, opposes military influence in the government of a country with a history of coups.

He was barred from the Thai National Assembly in a court ruling last month for breaching media shareholding rules, accusations he said were politically motivated.

Thanathorn said that he has no control over the timing of protests, adding that the “anger of the people is real” and that an anti-government rally expected next month — in the form of a run — would be a test of sentiment toward the ruling coalition.

Thailand held a disputed general election in March after almost five years of military rule.

A pro-military coalition led by Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former junta leader, took office in July with a razor-thin majority.

A spokesman for the alliance’s biggest party, Palang Pracharath, yesterday said that he disagreed with Thanathorn’s comments.

“He should respect the justice system. Nobody knows how these legal cases will play out,” Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said. “The majority of people don’t want to see street protests again. They don’t want to see chaos and disruption in the country.”

Future Forward emerged as the third-largest party and became part of an opposition bloc that controls almost half of the assembly’s lower chamber.

The deeply divided legislature and the government’s slim majority have put the spotlight on political risk in Thailand, where officials are straining to revive a struggling economy.

The administration in October managed to get the annual budget bill through an initial vote, with more due next month.

Analysts remain split on whether the coalition will survive future tests.

Judges dissolved a party opposed to military rule in the run-up to the election.

The party, Thai Raksa Chart, was linked to exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thanathorn said that he does not support violence, but added that tension is rising and that a “storm” might be coming.

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