Thailand Opposition Signs Coalition Agreement, Pledges to Restore Democracy


BANGKOK: Members of Thailand’s eight-party coalition that won a majority of seats in Thailand’s general election May 14 have officially agreed to work together, listing their new policies as they look to lead the country’s next government.

Led by the Move Forward Party, or MFP, the political parties signed a memorandum of understanding, consisting of nearly two dozen terms and conditions they wish to pursue, including teams to work out any differences among the parties.

The signing of the coalition deal comes on the ninth anniversary of Thailand’s 2014 military coup.

MOU announcement

At a packed news conference Monday afternoon at the Conrad Hotel in Bangkok, MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat signed the agreement along with the seven other coalition leaders, listing 23 points they have agreed to accomplish, calling the negotiations “fruitful, comprehensive and a good start.”

“Today is about setting it up, as a good starter, that we have to work together moving forward to declare our policies after I become prime minister, so today is only the first step. There are a lot of immediate next steps that follow that, and that will probably explain a little bit more how to come about change,” Limjaroenrat told reporters.

The other parties in the coalition include Pheu Thai, Prachachat, Thai Sang Thai, Seri Ruam Thai, Fair, Pue Thai Rumphlang and Plung Sungkom Mai.

The Move Forward Party won 152 seats in the general election, comfortably defeating conservative and military-backed parties. Defying belief that the MFP only has support in urban areas where college students are registered to vote, in the capital Bangkok, MFP won a local landslide with 32 out of 33 constituency seats going to the progressive party.

But because of the 750-member structure of Thailand’s parliament — a majority of 376 seats is needed to elect a prime minster and form a new government. Because the MFP did not get enough seats to win outright, the alliance was formed. The seven allies will add 161 seats, totaling 313 seats in government.

23 points included in the MOU?

After talks of a coalition between the MFP and other parties following the elections, Monday’s signing is significant because it is viewed as a record that brings accountability.

The joint memorandum of understanding states all parties agree to not affect Thailand’s status as a state, a democracy under a constitutional monarchy, or the status of the monarchy itself.

Included in the 23-policy list is a focus to restore democracy and draft a new constitution, pass a marriage equality act, reform the police, military, and the justice process, revive the economy and combat corruption. The opposition coalition also hopes to restore Thailand’s geopolitical role, and to end its “quiet diplomacy.”

Reclassifying cannabis as a controlled substance has also been listed, despite Thailand decriminalizing its use in June 2022. Ending military conscription in Thailand was also pinpointed. It was one of the MFP’s campaign pledges.

Lèse majesté

One policy that the political parties haven’t been able to agree on is amending Thailand’s lèse majesté law, which punishes those who criticize Thailand’s monarchy. The law is outlined in Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and carries lengthy prison sentences for violations. Amending it was a major campaign pledge of the Move Forward Party.

At least two coalition parties have said they won’t support any amendment on the monarchy, while Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew said its exclusion in the MOU was to avoid any obstacles to the formation of the coalition, according to local media.

But Pita Limjaroenrat says it’s just a matter of time before the MFP submits a proposal for the law to be changed.

“In terms of 112, we have been very consistent. Before the election and after the election, I have made my interviews with a couple media outlets, it is something Move Forward Party confirmed the law amendment will be continued, and it’s not going to be pressured in the sense that any other coalition parties will have to be part of that MOU. I don’t think when the time comes, Move Forward Party will be alone in a sense that we have submitted this law amendment,” he said.

Youth movement

In 2020 and 2021, Thailand was rocked with anti-government and monarchy reform protests, mainly led by Thai youths. Clashes with police were common while hundreds of protesters and activists have since been arrested under the lese-majeste law.

Many of those youth activists voted for the Move Forward Party.

A record turnout saw more than 39 million Thais vote in the general elections, equating to over 75% of the population, according to reports.

Thais cast two votes to make up the 500 seats in Thailand’s House of Representatives, selecting their choice from 400 constituency MP’s and 100 party-list MP’s.

However, Thailand’s 250-member military-appointed Senate still holds crucial sway on who will be installed as the next government.

Past elections

During the general election in 2019, the Senate unanimously voted for current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, despite a victory by the Pheu Thai party in those polls.

It was nine years ago, May 22, 2014, when Prayuth, then a military general, led a coup in Thailand. He has been leader ever since. Following his rise to power, Thailand received a new constitution and saw the appointment of the 250-member Senate in 2017. The current Senate has helped Prayuth remain in office.

The new Thai coalition hopes the combined seats in government will put pressure on the Senate to vote in its favor. Thailand’s electoral commission has up to 60 days to officially confirm this year’s general election results before the Senate is expected to decide on who will lead the government.__VOA News