The Future Forward Party officially debuted on Thursday, led by 39-year-old tycoon Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and legal scholar Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, with a clear agenda to promote a non-military, participatory democracy.
“We also will not accept an outsider prime minister. We will not join in that process,” Thanathorn said at the press conference launching the party.
He was referring to a mechanism, stipulated in the junta-written 2017 charter, which allows the Upper and Lower houses to jointly select a prime minister who is not elected or listed as a party candidate for the position.
The mechanism is seen by critics as paving the way for incumbent powers, most probably the ruling junta, to continue its term of power, similar to how Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda previously extended his premiership.
Founded by 26 local activists, academic and social campaigners, the new party’s stated intention is to build an inclusive society in which people’s voices will be heard and the “old faith in non-democratic power should end”, Thanathorn said.
The founders of the new party include the former director of Amnesty Thailand Chamnan Chanruang, education academic Kunthida Rungruengkiat, disabilities rights activist Nalatporn Krairerk and print labour union president Surin Khamsuk.
Due to the restrictions set by the junta’s ban against political gatherings of five or more people, Thanathorn and Piyabutr were unable to declare Future Forward’s policies or strategies ahead of the next general election, which the junta has promised will occur in February of next year, after multiple postponements.
However, they promised the party would be an alternative after “a decade-long political crisis and loss of opportunities, with the illegitimate use of power and unfair laws”, they said.
The press conference was held despite threats from the ruling junta that it could break the ban on political activities.
Thanathorn wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that the event would not break the prohibition because it was merely “discussion and coffee drinking”, while adding that the junta should soon lift the ban to allow all parties to engage more with the public.