Prachatai poll: a military party may not be as popular as Prayut hopes

 
After junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that the election may be held in November 2018, various political groups, including the junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) itself, have shown their political agenda to the public. On one hand, the junta last November posed a question to the people: “Does the NCPO have the right to support a political party?” The question is seen as a clear sign that the NCPO will take part in the next election. This assumption was confirmed after Prayut told the media that he is “a politician who used to be a soldier.”
 
On the other hand, major political parties are seeking a way to prevent military influence in the next election. One scenario proposed by politicians from Pheu Thai and the Democrats is that the two parties might form a coalition in the next election to prevent an ‘outsider PM’ and to amend the junta-written constitution. 
 
In order to see the political future more clearly, Prachatai asked people from across the political spectrum two big questions: 
 
1) Do you agree with the formation of an NCPO party or a military party in the next election and will you vote for it? 
 
2) Do you agree if Pheu Thai and the Democrats form a coalition for political purposes, for example, to prevent an outsider PM?
 
 
 

Jutharat, 59, state enterprise employee from Pathum Thani, former PDRC and PAD protester

 
Q1: I won’t vote for a party, but for the individual. If Prayut runs for the election himself, I’ll vote for him. But if there’s a military party or a party that nominates Prayut, I won’t vote for them. I’ll vote Prayut because I’ve seen his genuine determination. He works and speaks directly and determinedly. He does things without beating about the bush. Other people don’t like him but I do. He has no corruption issues.
 
Q2: I disagree because I hate Pheu Thai. This is my personal feeling without any academic reason. If they really cooperate, I might hate the other party as well. 
 

Taweechai, 64, retired engineer from Bangkok, former PDRC and PAD protester

 
Q1: If the NCPO run for election, I won’t vote for them because, firstly, I always vote Democrat and, secondly, the NCPO right now has a lot of power but still can’t run the country properly. They’re powerful but not capable. If they became politicians like others, without any special power, that’s even more useless. Although they can be the government, they can’t do anything. The NCPO has no ability and are probably not capable of being good politicians. They don’t have any good points.
 
Q2: I don’t agree with the two parties joining together. I’ll be certainly dissatisfied. If Pheu Thai becomes the government by themselves, I’m already not satisfied. If the Democrats help them to form a government, that will really hurt my feelings. Because Pheu Thai have been the government for many terms and changed its name many times. That proves there’s only corruption and scandals. I drove them out of government many times so if the two parties form a coalition government, I would hate all politicians forever. 
 

Prasat Chumphon, 39, a university employee from Maha Sarakham, has observed PDRC, PAD and UDD demonstrations

 
Q1: If there’s a military party to support the power of the NCPO as the government, that’s not good because they’re not good at economics and politics. They’re suitable only for keeping the country quiet but that’s like sweeping problems under the rug. If people are still poor, don’t have enough to eat and can’t sleep well, the NCPO won’t last long. What I want to see are policies where grassroots people can live well and eat well on the basis of sustainable development, not policies that only aim to increase popularity.
 
Q2: I’ll vote for neither of them because whichever party gets in, it can’t solve the conflict or give people a better living. I think the Democrats still stick with its old-fashioned values and haven’t proposed any new ideas to make the country keep up with others. The Pheu Thai Party also sticks with the individual. If the two parties really come together, it may be difficult to work together because their basic values are different. 
 
 

O (pseudonym), 28, a university employee from Khon Kaen, joined the PDRC protest when Pheu Thai was pushing the amnesty bill

 
Q1: I disagree because soldiers are only trained to receive orders and obey them, not to think about the public interest as much as they should. I’m not saying that they’re incapable but to run the country, the public interest is something that needs to be taken great care of. The NCPO’s projects don’t look at the long term effects in the future as much as they should, like, the welfare card for the poor, which is complicated. Does it really benefit people? Although they recruit academics and experts to help in each project, it is still the NCPO that has the power to listen or not. They haven’t chosen or decided as people have asked.
 
Q2: If there is real cooperation I think it is something good because the different parties have ideas that are contradictory. If both parties believe in democracy, respect the majority, and prioritise people’s interests, then even though they have different ideas, it should be a good thing. I think these people are experienced, knowledgeable and have useful ability. But I still can’t imagine cooperation between the two big parties.
 

Ya (pseudonym), 60, rubber farmer in Trang, former supporter of the ideas of the PDRC

Q1: It’s difficult to answer because during the past year, Prime Minister Gen Prayut announced through the media that he wouldn’t run for election, but he has just recently confirmed that he is a politician. Whether he claims that he’s a soldier or a politician, I will only choose politicians because they have experience in running the country and come to power through people’s votes while the military appoint themselves, and don’t come from elections. The government and the leader must only come from election.
 
Q2: It’s certainly difficult but I believe that if eventually they can cooperate, it’s acceptable for me. But I have to wait and see who will be the leader of each party. If they are compatible, I will vote for them because I think that most southerners still favour the Democrats. If the Democrats are willing to cooperate with Pheu Thai, the southerners might accept it. Let’s see if they can cooperate.  If they join together, I will vote for them whether they can cooperate or not.  
 

Ueng Bao-ubon (pseudonym), 44, redshirt who has been at UDD demonstrations since 2009 in Bangkok and Ubon.  Recently he was arrested and is being prosecuted

 
Q1: I don’t believe that the election will occur in 2018 according to the roadmap. I don’t believe that Prayut will hold the election as he promised. He made this kind of promise many times before but in the end he never kept them. And when there’s an election, I don’t think that the parties that support Prayut will be elected to parliament. Now northeasterners don’t want Prayut, and people in other regions as well. 
 
Q2: I will not oppose that. I give people chance. The Democrats may be able to be developed.
 

Tuwaedaniya Tuwaemaengae, 34, Deep South civil society activist, Muslim Malay from Pattani

 
Q1: If the military dares to reveal themselves as politicians,  and if they have good policies, and the people see that really benefit, and if they play by the rules of democracy, people will probably vote for them. For me, as a person in the Deep South provinces, I want to see tangible policies that promote peace. 
 
Q2: That still depends on policies. The parties have long been polarized.If they can really cooperate, that may be the answer to reconciliation. That will be a new model of a coalition government of both poles that considers the people’s interests.
 

Rukchart Suwan, 54, coordinator of a Buddhist peace network from Yala, joined the PDRC protests and always voted Democrat.

 

Q1: Firstly, in this election, if we need to reform the election, we need to look at the quality of politicians. If there is an NCPO party which is full of soldiers, I should have to think. The country’s administration nowadays is a good example of the NCPO’s work. Personally, I won’t vote for them because at present I feel uncomfortable with this administration so I won’t vote for this party. Even though Prayut runs for Prime Minister himself, I still won’t vote for him, nor for Suthep’s party. There are many ways in which the PDRC movement has been disappointing that make me think that I should not have blown a whistle. I didn’t blow a whistle to call for the military. At that time, I thought that it would be better. The military might have to come to help us but I didn’t think that they would stay as long as this.
 
Q2: If civilian parties cooperate to reduce the power of the military, I’m okay with that. There was a slogan “let politics lead the military” but in fact, the military has always led politics. In every decision, the military will be the one who has the final say, especially in the Deep South. Therefore, if the civilians think of something big to uproot the military power, I will support that. 
 

Chaiyapong Samnieng, 34, from Phrae, PhD student at Chiang Mai University, member of the Democrat Party, never joined a PAD or PDRC protest, prosecuted for joining a political gathering of more than 5 people to protest the military government at the 2017 Thai Studies conference

 
Q1: I certainly won’t vote for it because a military party shows the prolonging of Prayut’s power. He may lack capability in parliamentary politics.  It is likely to be the old political groups joining together.
 
Q2: If they cooperate to oppose an outsider PM or to amend the constitution, I’m OK with that. But I think they can’t join together because they have totally different political ideas. The Democrats think about using any authority to move towards a politics of good people while Pheu Thai is mass politics. I think they are so far apart that they will not be able to cooperate.
 
 

Woot Model, 42, former community radio host in Samut Prakan, voted for Pheu Thai in 2010

 
Q1: If the NCPO forms a political party or there’s a military party or a nominee party for the military in the election, I would agree only if it lets the people vote according to a universal democratic system. But what I disagree with and cannot accept is writing election laws which are undemocratic and are said to be written to benefit the NCPO and its clique to prolong their power or gain power more easily. For example, (1) 250 appointed senators, (2) eligibility of candidates, (3) electoral districts and party-list representatives, (4) non-party representatives which will lead to vote buying, (5) PM from outside the nominees of political parties and (6) Provincial Election Commissions having sky-high power to decide on yellow or red cards or to declare an election invalid. Therefore, I see the upcoming election as just a soap opera to trick the people and international community. 
 
Q2. Whether they cooperate temporarily or overnight, I disagree in every sense. I will certainly not cooperate with murderers with bloody hands. Also, the Democrats mobilised people to overthrow popularly elected governments. It’s the party that supported the military to seize the power of the people so I disagree. 
 
If Pheu Thai forgets the painful past of every man for himself, I certainly won’t vote for them.  
 

A (pseudonym), 50, red-shirt political activist from the northeast, twice detained by the military without charge

 
Q1: I agree with Prayut playing politics and forming a political party. Now we are beginning to see a social movement trying to form political parties by old supporters of the coup. I understand that this is organised for Prayut enter politics. 
 
The political transition after a coup like this is not the first. In the past, Field Marshal Phibun, Sarit or Thanom used this method. Getting involved in politics is a good thing. At least they are regulated by the constitution, not just doing whatever they want, like today. 
 
Q2: On principle, I disagree with collaboration between Pheu Thai and the Democrats. But in practice, I have to wait and see what the goal of the collaboration is. If the goal is clear and the collaboration is just temporary, that could be acceptable. But personally, I never want to sing from the same hymn sheet as the Democrats but if Pheu Thai wants to do it, I won’t oppose it.