With Thailand’s elections on the horizon, the nation’s youth find themselves at the center of a transformative political landscape. Eager for real change yet wary of potential chaos, young voters are poised to shape the country’s future.
A recent focus group interview with students from Mae Fah Luang University by Simone Galimberti, provided valuable insights into the perspectives of Thai youth. One prevailing sentiment among them is the hope that the upcoming elections, scheduled for this Sunday, will pave the way for a different trajectory, steering Thailand towards a new era.
While the Move Forward Party (MFP) resonates strongly with many young voters, their support is not monolithic. The prevailing sentiment is that the Pheu Thai Party is likely to secure the highest number of votes, particularly in its northern stronghold.
Recognizing this reality, Thai youth express nuanced views, understanding that a post-election alliance between the MFP and Pheu Thai Party may fall short of the 375 votes required to nominate the prime minister.
Nevertheless, the MFP captures the aspirations of Thai youth, providing a progressive platform to channel their frustrations and ideas for transformation. The dissolution of the Future Forward Party in 2020 led to the establishment of the MFP, which positions itself on the left of the political spectrum and advocates for bold changes to the status quo.
During the focus group interview, one student voiced a sentiment shared by many: “The 2023 Thai election is an election of hope. Although it may be difficult for the MFP and Pheu Thai to win the 375 representative seats, I am confident that one of these two political parties will win this election for sure. This will bring about a certain change and development in Thailand’s politics for the better.”
The discussion also highlighted the appeal of Paethongtharn Shinawatra, a prime ministerial candidate from the Pheu Thai Party.
Seen as a capable leader with her own identity and agency, Paethongtharn represents an opportunity for female empowerment in Thai politics. The prospect of another female prime minister following in the footsteps of Yingluck Shinawatra resonates strongly among the female participants in the focus group.
The students expressed their views on other candidates as well. Sudarat Keyuraphan, the main candidate from the Thai Sang Thai Party, received positive recognition. However, some felt that her image was too soft for the current political climate.
The Thai Sang Thai Party, though unlikely to garner a significant number of seats, could play a vital role in a potential coalition government involving the MFP and Pheu Thai Party.
Beyond candidate preferences, Thai youth voiced a desire for a decentralized nation that fosters inclusivity and diversity. They emphasized the importance of engaging citizens at the local level, allowing their voices to shape decision-making processes. This vision aligns with the MFP’s focus on innovative solutions and reshaping systems of power devolution.
The discussions also extended to regional and foreign policy. Thai youth called for a different approach towards Myanmar, urging a departure from implicit support for the military junta. They believed that a more progressive foreign policy could redefine ASEAN dynamics, consolidating democracy and human rights in the region.
As Thailand stands on the precipice of change, young voters are eager to move beyond protests and enter the political arena. They understand the gradual nature of transformation but remain steadfast in their resolve for a better future.
With their hopes and aspirations set on the upcoming elections, Thai youth are determined not to let anyone rob them of victory.