Several months ago, Thailand finally had an election, after years of military dictatorship.
The results weren’t very surprising. As expected, the dictator remained Prime Minister, but this time, he gets to pretend he is legitimate despite rigging all the rules in his favor.
The future doesn’t look promising either. The same rules that kept the dictator in power ensures that the regime has firm control over the country for the next twenty years. Twenty years! And to top that off, it will be next to impossible to undo any of these changes because the junta has rooted itself so deeply into the culture and power structure of this country.
And yet, there’s some cause for hope.
Military coups, oh so common in Thailand’s history, cannot happen without popular consent. Over the past five years, the junta and its network have acted so brazenly and in the process, exposed their true nature and their corruption for all to see. The consent that was so readily given in the past—that the military are selfless actors, stepping in to stop greedy and evil politicians—is now firmly gone. There will never be another popular coup.
Thailand’s political landscape has also radically changed. Frustration with the status-quo and the current two factors have driven people who otherwise would’ve never entered politics, to step in and create a new political party based entirely on ending the military’s involvement in politics.
The Future Forward Party pledged to engage in a new kind of politics. But unlike other new parties in the past, they actually walked the walk; they forwent the traditional hua-kanaen system (a euphemism for vote buying) and aggressively raised money from small donors.
As they did so, the political establishment laughed and mocked them for their naivety—without hua-kanaen, how are they supposed to get votes? However, when the dust settled, the Future Forward Party came in at a strong 3rd place. Even more important, their message of a future without the military involvement resonated with millions.
So, despite a rigged system and shameless cheating by the junta, there is a lot to be hopeful for.
This photo essay captures two events after the election.
First, a large gathering celebrating (and fundraising for) the 1-year-old Future Forward Party.
Throughout the event, FWP MPs made themselves available for questions conversations with attendants. Making MPs accessible and aloof is one of the main goals of the party as it tries to engage in “new politics” that is more focused on substance and positivity.
Second, a small private gathering for people to meet and candidly talk about their thoughts and feelings. Due to fears about military intervention, the event was private and location only disclosed to attendants.
The event had very unorthodox structure. Instead of a “lecture” by distinguished guests, the event was structured as one big conversation between all the participants, while the guests dressed casually, drank beer, and answered questions.