In this webinar, Dr Punchada Sirivunnabood addressed a set of scenarios for the near-term future of Thai politics, touching on challenges to the stability of the government, and especially the role of the young generation in politics; on the role of the opposition parties; on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and on conflicts within the Phalang Pracharat Party.
THAILAND STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Monday, 20 July 2020 – Dr Punchada Sirivunnabood, Associate Professor in and Dean-designate of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Mahidol University, Thailand, reviewed a series of recent developments in Thai politics and looked ahead to developments to watch in the near-term future. She noted that the dissolution of the Future Forward Party last February had led to a wave of student protests against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and that, after a hiatus due to coronavirus, these protests had resumed in recent days.
In the meantime, the former leadership of the Future Forward Party had, despite losing its political rights, backed a new Progressive Movement. Among the foci of this movement was recruiting candidates to participate in sub-national elections. Those polls might occur early next year, after their suspension during the 2014-2019 government of the National Council for Peace and Order. In Prof Punchada’s understanding, sub-national elections in Thailand are a function of the patronage system and allow national parties to put in place officials who will assist them in future general elections.
Prof Punchada noted the predicted contraction of the Thai economy, the government’s adoption of a 400-billion-baht budget bill to counter the impact of coronavirus on the economy, and the uncertainty that characterized Prime Minister Prayut’s coming cabinet reshuffle. Above all, that reshuffle would affect crucial economic portfolios, after the resignation of the deputy prime minister for economic affairs and four ministers holding economic portfolios. The approach of this reshuffle coincides with manoeuvring within the Phalang Pracharat Party and other members of the sprawling coalition supporting Prime Minister Prayut. Some tensions over the allocation of seats in the new cabinet had resulted.
The sixteen questions from some of the sixty-five participants in Prof Punchada’s seminar concerned youth engagement with Thai politics and the likely outcome of resumed protests against the Prayut government, the role of the Democrat Party, the economic performance of the Prayut government and its policies toward small and medium-size enterprises, corruption, the current administration’s relationship with Thai big business, the role of opposition parties in relation to stimulus measures taken in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the effect of the pandemic in exacerbating xenophobia in Thailand, and the survival of Prime Minister Prayut and his government.