Last Sunday, the Pheu Thai Party shocked political observers in Thailand when it said it would be willing to tackle and possibly reform the country’s controversial lese-majeste laws.
In a late night press release, the party said it would investigate ways to reform the law within the constitutional and parliamentary framework.
What was shocking was not so much the notion that the lese-majeste law needs tackling, the calls to reform or get rid of the law have long been on the mouth of street protesters, but that the message was so off-brand for the party.
Let us remember that Pheu Thai is the spiritual successor to the People’s Power Party and the Thai Rak Thai Party. All political vehicles backed by enigmatic former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. And despite the prosecution, persecution, and protest by royalists and conservative against these parties (culminating in his own exile and his sister’s), Thaksin has continuously and constantly pledged loyalty to King and country.
The establishment and conservative Thais have long labeled Thaksin and his parties as liberal headaches looking to destabilize the established order.
But the truth is that Pheu Thai and all other Thaksin-backed parties are just as conservative as any alternative put forward by the so-called ‘deep state.’
Unyielding loyalty to the crown and the established order? Check. Supports the entrenched system of oligarchies and monopolies? Double check. Institution intervention and subsidies to prop up state enterprises? Checkaroony.
The truth is that the Pheu Thai Party is just a Conservative party with liberal lipstick and leftist lip service.
So it was no surprise when Thaksin posted on his Facebook that there was nothing wrong with Section 112 that the party walked back Sunday’s pledges.
From willing to look at reform, the Pheu Thai Party is now more concerned with how the “law is applied” and “abuse of power” by the prosecutors. The same line the party has had for the better part of two decades.
If Pheu Thai’s recent rebranding was an attempt to woo the young, passionate voters who overwhelmingly support the Move Forward Party, then this latest move is a step in the opposite direction.
Instead of slapping a tired facade on and even more tired brand, Pheu Thai should save the public from this unceasing pantomime.
If the party and its paymaster really wants to woo new-age voters, the party should wipe off the lipstick, get off clubhouse, and put their money where their mouth is.