Thai politics 2023 in review: Challenges and changes

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The landscape of Thai politics in 2023 was filled with suspense, surprises, and setbacks. The Move Forward Party, despite winning the most seats in the May election, couldn’t form a government. Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, a significant figure in the country’s political sphere, decided to retire. A potential reconciliation between the red and yellow shirts was on the horizon. Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, had a prolonged stay in hospital outside prison. And lastly, the Democrat Party continued its downward trend.

The unfortunate fate of the Move Forward Party

Thai politics
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Move Forward Party (MFP) experienced a déjà vu of Pheu Thai’s previous election. Despite gaining 151 seats in the May general election, their attempts to form a coalition with pro-democracy parties proved unfruitful. The party’s then-leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, was unable to garner enough votes from the Senate to become the prime minister. Many senators cited his media-shareholding court case as the reason for their decision. As a result, the party now sits in opposition with its new leader, Chaithawat Tulathon.

The MFP has been criticised for not keeping the government in check. Rumours suggest they are looking for a chance to reunite with Pheu Thai and get back into the government. The Constitutional Court will deliver its verdict on Pita’s media shareholding case on January 24.

Gen Prayut’s exit

Thai politics
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Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to step down as prime minister after nine years following the electoral defeat of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party. However, he was appointed as the latest privy councillor after his resignation. Despite harbouring ambitions to return as prime minister, poor poll performances by both parties ruined his chances. On July 11, Gen Prayut announced his retirement from Thai politics, marking the end of the Three Por triumvirate, a group that dominated the government for the previous nine years.

The promise of unity

Thai politics 2023 in review: Challenges and changes | News by Thaiger
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The current government, led by real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin, was formed with the promise of dismantling deep-rooted political divisions. The Pheu Thai Party, who installed the 61 year old as prime minister, broke ties with the MFP to join forces with the previous administration. This move was seen as an opportunity to build harmony between the red and yellow shirts, two groups that have been locked in a bitter feud for years.

Thaksin’s drama continues

Thai politics
Photo courtesy of Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

Thaksin Shinawatra, aged 74, who returned to Thailand to serve an eight-year prison term, was transferred to the Police General Hospital for health reasons after being held in Bangkok Remand Prison for only about 13 hours. Doubts about his health condition and whether he needs intensive care outside prison have been raised. The Department of Corrections (DoC) issued a new regulation allowing the detention of inmates outside of prison, which is being criticised as beneficial to Thaksin.

The downfall of the Democrats

Thai politics 2023 in review: Challenges and changes | News by Thaiger
Photo courtesy of Nutthawat Wichieanbut

The Democrat Party, the country’s oldest party, is on a downward spiral following a crushing defeat in the May general election. The party is now divided between the old guard and the faction led by Chalermchai Sri-on, their new leader. Despite the party’s disappointing performance in the polls, Chalermchai remains a politician and the party leader. The party’s future remains uncertain under Chalermchai’s leadership.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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