Submitted on Fri, 2018-03-30 17:26
The recent announcement by a key leader of the Future Forward Party (FFP) that he would not press the issue of amending the l?se majest? law in the new party, has sparked a political debate on whether the politician is making a strategic move or retreating from his liberal stance.
The newly-established FFP has continued to incite controversy after Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, one of the party’s most prominent members, announced on Facebook that he would not use the new party as a political tool to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the l?se majest? law.
“I insist that I will not involve the party in the issue of amending Article 112 of the Criminal Code and will not press the issue in the party,” posted Piyabutr.
He said this shortly after Sonthiya Sawatdee, who claimed to be a representative from an organisation called the Association of People who Investigate the Thai State, petitioned the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) to disqualify the FFP. He alleged that Piyabutr’s previous involvement with the anti-l?se majest? group Nitirat had caused conflicts among the country’s population, in violation of the Organic Act on Political Parties.
Sonthiya is not the first hyper-royalist to try to sabotage the FFP. Previously, a royalist celebrity, M.C. Chulcherm Yugala, accused the party of secretly trying to eliminate the Thai monarchy. Two weeks ago a retired police officer threatened to kill the key FFP leaders who allegedly have anti-monarchy objectives.
“In my life, I’ve killed so many evil people that I can’t even remember how many, and you are so easy for me. I think you are bigger bastards than criminals and drug dealers. Even insurgents in the three southernmost provinces have never maligned the monarchy,” retired police officer Bhakbhum Soonthornsorn posted on Facebook.
However, Piyabutr reiterated that his involvement with Nitirat has nothing to do with the FFP because it happened before the party had been formed.
The founding members of the Future Forward Party at a press conference on 15 March 2018
“A political party is a juristic entity, separate from the party’s members. So my personal opinions must be distinguished from the ideas, goals and policies of the party. To assume that my personal opinions are also those of the FFP is unfair to the FFP, its members and its supporters,” Piyabutr stated.
According to Puangthong Pawakapan, a member of the now-defunct Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 (CCAA 112), it is unsurprising that Piyabutr vowed to withdraw his agenda since the political establishment never hesitates to suppress those who challenge the royal defamation law, making the amendment of Article 112 through legislative measures nearly impossible.
“So the difficulties in this issue are not about the number of votes in parliament, but that it is a sensitive issue that political parties do not dare to touch because they will be easily attacked with anti-monarchy allegations,” Puangthong explained. “This is the reason why all political parties do not dare to touch any amendment. This is why, when CCAA 112 submitted people’s signatures and a draft amendment to Article 112 to parliament, they were quickly rejected by the Speaker, who was at that time a Pheu Thai MP.”
Puangthong believes that Piyabutr’s statement was a strategic move to ensure that the FFP will wins seats in parliament, which will allow the party to make progress on other significant political tasks, like eliminating the military influence from Thai politics.
“I think Piyabutr has clearly stated that in the attempts to make Thailand better, there are steps to follow. Thai social problems nowadays are many and are confusingly interrelated on many issues and many points. But solving them must be done with care. Otherwise, those who try to solve them might be strangled to death by the problems before they do anything,” she added.
However, Somsak Jeamteerasakul, an exiled critic of the monarchy, commented that without the issue of amending Article 112, the new party would be just a smaller version of the Pheu Thai Party.
“Former intellectuals and activists who turn into ‘young blood politicians’ are in danger of becoming just a newer and younger version of the old intellectuals and politicians who were criticised for not, under any circumstances, touching on the status of the King,” Somsak posted on Facebook.
Somsak also said that it was too early for Piyabutr to publicly announce the end of his efforts to amend Article 112. Because Piyabutr’s personal opinion does not reflect the FFP’s policies, it will not lead to the party’s dissolution in any way.
“When the time comes for the party’s foundational meeting (to pass policies, select executives, etc.), and Acharn Piyabutr or other important party members discuss with each other and see that it is inappropriate to put the issue of Article 112 into the policies, because the party’s will not be able to register, then just remove it and register without this issue. If this is the case, what was the necessity of yesterday’s announcement? I can't see one,” Somsak posted on Facebook.
The exiled academic also predicted that the premature statement from the FFP’s number two leader will discourage other members who wish to amend the royal defamation law. “That’s why I saw Piyabutr’s announcement yesterday as unnecessary and ill-judged,” he added.