Opinion: The progressive seeds must be planted and shown to take root or the movement is over

This weekend’s election results were another poor showing by the Progressive Movement.

The first was in December when they failed to win any chairman position at the previous Provincial Administrative Organization election. They fielded 42 candidates for the seats and thought they would win at least five.  

Then on Sunday the results of the municipal elections showed they only won seats in 10 localities out of 2,472 municipalities that held elections this year.

The bad outcome for the Progressive Movement made conservatives, royalists and pro-military parties very happy.

The ruling pro-junta’s Tipanan Sirichana was one of the first to gloat, saying the results from the two local elections showed Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit that Thai people are loyal to the institution and that they truly understand what the constitutional monarchy system really is, with the King as head of state.

But she did not mentioned that these local elections were the party’s first since the coup of 2014. And the notion that anyone who voted for Thanathorn’s group is a “nation hater” propaganda that coup-makers have been using against political opposition since the birth of the constitutional monarchy in 1932.

If you want examples then you do not have to look back too far. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s predecessor used it as an excuse to come into power via the coup in 2006. And since the coup of 2014, Prayut has been using it to stay in power and arresting dissidents until today.

The current junta has had six years to cement their ties to local administrations, and to position themselves as saviours of the monarchy.

All the guns and corruption money, the brainwashing propaganda, coupled with many powerful incumbent political families, have meant newcomers have had very little chance to make it to one of the local seats in any province.

Some say that Thanathorn and his group are too idealistic and that their ideals are more appealing at the national level and they may have a point.

But what I see right now is the planting of seeds.

“We cannot do it at the national level, we must do things at the local level for the people to see our efforts and our proficiency. This is the first objective,” Thanathorn told BBC Thai last week.

Since the Future Forward Party had been dissolved and himself banned from politics, Thanathorn has no choice but to do what he is doing right now in a bid to return one day with bigger support from the grassroots because he knows that this is where the general election is won.

There is no need to show the students what their ideologies are and what they can do. These new generations know how to find it themselves and they are already his stronghold.

What the Move Forward Party needs before the next election is for the offline and grassroots people to know who they are and what they can do. Thanathorn is doing this with the Progressive Movement.

What they must do next is to show the people who voted for them, and the municipalities that they have won, that they can do what they have promised, and do it much better than others would.

If they do not, then Thanathorn’s efforts for the Progressive Movement will not only come to waste, it will also backfire. The next taunting would be, “See? These people didn’t know what they are doing after all”.  

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