4 Years After the Coup: New Generation of Politicians Waiting for Return of Elections

Originally published on Channel NewsAsia on May 20, 2018

We continue our series on four years after the military coup and today we look at the new crop of politicians is slowly gearing up for the campaign (whenever the govt allows and actually holds it). So what do Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (Future Forward Party) and Varawut Silpa-archa (Chartthaipattana Party) think they can do to woo voters and their vision for Thailand’s political future?


Among the flurry of new parties, is the Future Forward party of billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

It's grabbed the headlines with a progressive and anti-military stance.

The 39-year-old, vice president of his late father’s car parts empire, says that after years of political polarization and military rule, now is the time for change.

"For us, something that is equally important is winning the war; the war of ideas. So the war for seats and the war of ideas are equally important. We have to win the domination of ideas. We have to challenge the conservative ideas that we, the people of Thailand, are not ready for democracy, we have to challenge this idea."

Mr. Thanathorn is offering his party platform as an alternative to those of established parties among them, the Chart Thai Pattana party... A key personality here is Varawut Silpa-archa, also regarded as a new-generation politician.

His late father Banharn was the party's long-time leader, and for a brief time, prime minister. Mr. Varawut believes he can learn from his father's mistakes.

VARAWUT SILPA-ARCHA; Chart Thai Pattana Party:
"After all, he was a former Prime Minister of Thailand. In order to run away from his shadow, I have to cast a bigger shadow than him. If I can’t run away from it, I shall embrace it. I shall embrace the way he ran his political party, utilize on his experiences, learn from the mistakes that he made, the success that he did - then we can move forward."

Mr Varawut and Mr Tharnathon are part of a new generation of politicians who have registered their parties ahead of potential polls next year.

"It’s still a long road until any democratically elected candidate can come here to parliament. There's still a lot to be done - never mind that political parties are still not allowed to campaign or talk specific policies without permission by the military government. However, this new group of politicians - the so-called young bloods - have the rare opportunity to tap into a new generation of potential voters."

THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK; Director Institute of Security and International Studies, Chulalongkorn University:
"We need new ideas. We need new people, younger people. And remember that we haven’t had elections in Thailand since 2011! We’ve had protest, turmoil, polarizations in Thailand since 2005. So there’s been an entire generation who’ve grown up seeing this conflict in Thailand - so they probably wanna have a say."

Analysts say this new generation of politicians is unlikely to dramatically alter Thailand's political landscape, at least not just yet.

The military government's ban on political parties' activity has silenced debate but when the ban is lifted, it may give the new breed of politicians a chance to prove themselves.

Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok