Family members and allies of two former Thai leaders announced formation of a new political party this week.
The party was launched Wednesday in Bangkok. Its leaders are relatives and supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra. Each served as Thailand’s prime minister in recent years until they were ousted.
Formation of the new Thai Raksa Chart Party comes months before planned general elections. Thailand’s military government has promised to hold the vote between February and May 2019.
Thailand’s last general election was held in 2011, when Yingluck Shinawatra, head of the Pheu Thai Party, was chosen as prime minister. She and her government were ousted from power in 2014.
Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown when the military seized power in 2006. Since then, he has lived in self-imposed exile.
In 2008, a Thai court found Thaksin guilty of violating the country’s anti-corruption law. He never returned to Thailand to his trial, which he said was carried out for political reasons. He faces separate corruption charges brought in 2008 and 2012.
Yingluck Shinawatra fled Thailand in August 2017 just before a court found her guilty of criminal negligence. She was given a five-year jail sentence. Like her brother, she did not attend her trial.
The 2019 elections will put supporters of Thailand’s military and ruling family against populist forces led by the Pheu Thai Party. Political observers see the formation of the new party as part of an alliance aimed at winning more seats in the vote.
The Thai Raksa Chart party will be led by Preechapol Pongpanich, a former member of parliament with the Pheu Thai Party. The leadership includes Thaksin and Yingluck’s nephew and niece, as well as a younger generation of political allies.
Parties linked to the Shinawatras have won every Thai election in recent years. The family still remains popular in many areas, especially in the rural northeastern provinces.
But the military government’s new constitution effectively limits the number of constituency seats in provinces where the Shinawatras have enjoyed support.
The military has said the constitutional changes are aimed at limiting the power of major political parties.
The military government has ordered Thailand’s Election Commission to investigate whether Thaksin is still controlling the Pheu Thai Party. Findings of that investigation could result in the party being banned.
Former army chief and current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed interest in entering politics. But he has yet to say if he plans to compete as a candidate in the next elections.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His story is based on reports from Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Gerge Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
negligence – n. failure to take the care that a responsible person usually takes
constituency – n. an area of a country that elects someone to represent it in the government, or the people who live there
niece – n. a daughter of one’s brother, sister, a brother-in-law or sister-in-law
nephew – n. a son of one’s brother, sister, a brother-in-law or sister-in-law
impose – v. to order or establish; to bring about by force