Ex-protest leaders ready to return with new parties

politics March 01, 2018 01:00

By POLITICAL DESK
THE NATION

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AMONG THE many political parties expected to be registered later this month, two new ones will be formed with the blessings of former protest leaders who appear to have been disillusioned by the old-style politics blamed for the country’s latest military coup more than three years ago.



Two groups of people who in the past staged street protests against billionaire-turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra and his alleged proxies are separately planning to re-enter politics, apparently with rebranding in mind.

The protest leaders were politicians before they took to the streets and left their old political parties behind.

Among the interesting new political groups in the making are the New Palang Dharma Party (NPDP) and the Great Mass of People Party (GMPP), which is closely linked to the anti-Thaksin former People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). 

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The NPDP is linked to Chamlong Srimuang, a popular former Bangkok governor who was once leader of the now-defunct Palang Dharma, or Power of Virtues. Since the 1990s, Chamlong led many street protests against people in power and later he was a core leader of the “yellow-shirt” People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). 

The GMPP is connected to veteran politician Suthep Thaugsuban, who was previously secretary-general of the Democrat Party. He left the party to form the PDRC and led prolonged street protests against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, which culminated in the military coup of May 2014.

Both new parties are believed to have the blessings of Chamlong and Suthep, who are viewed as allies of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. However, their spokesmen yesterday were non- committal as to whether the parties would support General Prayut in returning to power after the next election.

Former Palang Dharma members agreed to set up a new political party to carry on its ideology of integrity, according to Dr Rawee Maschamadol, a founder of the new party who once served as an executive member of the Palang Dharma Party. “That’s why we want to name the new party New Palang Dharma,” he said yesterday.

However, Rawee declined to reveal whether Chamlong would lead the new party or even appear at a press conference to be held today about its formation. “You should wait to see for yourself,” he said.

Rawee, a leader of the People’s Network for Thai Energy Reform, said “many organisations” have agreed to support the new party but that they would be disclosed at the press briefing today. He added that the party’s policy platforms have been developed from those of Malaysia’s ruling party United Malays National Organisation.

When asked if his new party would back Prayut as new prime minister after the election, Rawee said yesterday that its PM candidates will have a high standard of integrity but that they “dare not consider” Prayut to be one of its PM candidates. 

Suthep’s brother Thanee Thaugsuban, a founder of the GMPP, was also non-committal yesterday as to whether it would support Prayut’s return as prime minister.

He said the party has yet to decide who it would support after the election. 

Thanee, a former Democrat MP from Surat Thani, added that the Suthep-backed party expected to represent fellow protesters in the movement called Muan Maha Prachachon (Great Mass of the People), which called for extensive national reforms before the coup.

Thanee said Suthep was not among the co-founders but that he would help with establishing the new party and recruiting members.