In Thailand, US Threads Between Military Interest and Democratic Ideals

WASHINGTON - Thanat Apichonpongsakorn, a 34-year-old business owner, had nearly given up on Thai politics. But after he saw young politicians launch a new party, he went to the polls last year with a new attitude, not just to vote “no” as he had the previous two elections since 2011.

Thanat left the voting booth on March 24, 2019, filled with optimism for the Future Forward Party. Within less than a year, the party he supported was gone after a court ruled against its financial practice, a verdict that pries open Thanat’s prior view on politics.

“No matter who the new government will be,” he said, “There will be the same kind of people and bodies. Nothing is going to change.”

The demise of Future Forward, the country’s second-biggest opposition party, removes a challenge in the parliament for the military-backed government and armed forces, and has a knock-on effect to the U.S.-Thai relationship. It tests the ability of the U.S. to thread a delicate line between strengthening military ties with its oldest ally in Asia and advocating for democracy in a region where strongman rulers including Cambodia’s Hun Sen and Thailand’s General Prayut Chan-o-cha emerged triumphant from elections regarded as flawed by international observers.

Source: Voice of America