Opinion: Time for Progressive Movement and student protesters to do some soul searching

The leaders of the progressive movement said they should win Sunday’s local election contests in a landslide. They fielded delegates across the country, campaigned with high profile former Future Forward personalities, and lost decisively.

On Monday, the leader of the Progressive Movment Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit went as far as apologizing to their supporters for Sunday night’s massacre.

The group fielded 42 candidates for the provincial chief positions in 42 provinces and failed to win a single one.

“We have worked hard and truly realize that even though there are many factors, but the most important factor why we have not won the in any province is because we have not work hard enough, and we were not efficient enough,” Thanathorn said.

“I would like to use this opportunity to say sorry to the people that have supported us on the December 20 election,” he added.

But as Thanathorn himself acknowledged, perhaps the message the Progressive Movement has been a bit too radical for mainstream Thais.

As we have said before in the past [Read more here], the student movement and the progressives that support them would do well to escape the echo chamber that is Facebook and Twitter and venture forth into the world for a little perspective.

While their messages regarding reform of the royal institution and their criticisms of the archaic and draconian lese majeste laws have intellectual merit, perhaps they will realize that the majority of Thais have little stomach for a fight at a time when the economy has sunk and the country remains in emergency mode.

If the students had taken the popular support that they had in July and August and concentrated on criticisms of the Prayut government, its corruption, its economic mismanagement and its moral failings then the base of support they had would have only grown.

Instead the Progressive Movement and the students became more radical, emboldened by each other and the lack of consequence and pushed away neutral, or even sympathetic conservative Thais.

Now, with support for protests waning, infighting between student groups, low rally numbers and a decisive electoral defeat, some soul searching must be done by the leaders of the Progressive Movement and the student protest groups.

It is not too late to shift the conversation back to the economy, back to the mismanagement of Covid-19 which is now seing a resurgence, and back to a message that the majority of Thai people can get behind.

In politics, it is about making the most allies you can make, not dogmatic intellectual pursuits (no matter how righteous) that dwindles your support.

It is time for students and Thailand’s youth to get of Twitter, venture into union meetings and areas of economic destitution and listen to how they can lend their support and amplify the voices of those really suffering.

Additional reporting by Erich Parpart.

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