/ #culture

Politics and Hope

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 pastthat the mil­i­tary are self­less actors, step­ping in to stop greedy and evil politiciansis 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 naivetywith­out 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.

The Hunger Games salute is now a symbol Thai politics, after people displaying the salute were arrested following the coup.

Thailand’s first Hmong MP. Historic because many Thais still see hill tribe individuals as lesser.

Taopiphop, much like AOC in the US, is the face of the wave of “normal people” in politics.

FWP sells pride merchandise and is vocal about their support for diversity and LGBT causes. This was previously unheard of in Thai politics.

The party has a high emphasis on member registration and fundraising. This ensures the party truly serves the majority and not big donors.

This focus on small-dollar donors is new in Thailand (and relatively new in other countries as well).

A crowd lines up to buy merchandise.

Pannika, a TV anchor turned spokesperson, is now one of the faces of the party.

Generally, political parties hired crowds for their events. FWP is the first to have tens of thousands attend its rallies out of excitement.

FWP is very vocal about people with disabiltiies and has walked the walk by including many disabled individuals on the party’s proporational representation MP list.

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.

The event was distinguished by its private nature and high audience participation.

Taopiphob, a FWP MP, and Parit Wacharasindhu, a famous former Democrat.

The event also featured music and poetry performances.

Chris Potranandana (right), FWP co-founder and MP candidate, and many FWP staffers also attended the event.