Something old, something new at registration for new political parties

Originally aired on Channel NewsAsia on March 2, 2018

The Election Commission of Thailand opened its doors today for the first new political parties to sign up. It marks the first time formal political activities are taking place in Thailand since the 2014 military coup. Among the new parties are some familiar faces. Here's my observation.

TRANSCRIPT

It is the first day where you can register your new political party in Thailand. We’re here at the Election Office of Thailand. What you need is a name - in both Thai and English - a logo and at least 15 members. But that is just the first step.

At least 30 parties have come here to sign up and many familiar faces are among them. One of them is the New Palang Dharma Party, it is the spiritual successor of the old Palang Dharma Party of Chamlong Srimuang. Now their policy platform is a "rule of good virtue and good morals" - a "Dharmacracy" so to speak. But according to the founder that is not a contradiction to the democratic system itself.

RAWEE MACHAMADOL; Founder New Palang Dharma Party:
"The party’s ideology is based on the concept of "Dharmacracy" which does not contradict democratic system. But our policies will based on this ideology and those will be a true and just policies. We disagree with Western democracy, because it’s starting to show its failures in many places like the USA, England and Europe, which were supposed to be the role models of democracy"

Now the big question here is who else is going to sign up in the following days. There have been some rumors and some talk that the group of former protest leader Suthep Thuagsuban is also going to come here to register their political party.

Now if you remember, Suthep Thuagsuban’s protest rallies against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra back in 2013 and ’14 paved the way for the military coup.

So the concern among some people is that this party and other parties are only there to support the current military government and prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha in a post-election scenario.

Nevertheless, going forward, there are still some hurdles for political parties new and old alike. Under current rules, they’re not allowed to campaign publicly whatsoever. Public gatherings of more than 5 people are not allowed. So there’s some catch 22 here: even though they are allowed to register, they’re not allowed to campaign.

And another uncertainty is over the next election date. The current military government has delayed democratic elections repeatedly. Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has recently said that the next election date will be February 2019, so a year from now on. The question is, will he keep his promise or not?

Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok