Thailand's Move Forward Party signs MOU, cannabis regulation, same sex marriage & constitutional reform on the agenda

The coalition still has to navigate the military appointed senate.

Tan Min-Wei | May 23, 2023, 03:00 PM

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Thailand's Move Forward Party (MFP) and its coalition partners unveiled a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on May 22, the ninth anniversary of the 2014 military coup.

23 point plan

MFP has put together a 8 party coalition that includes the second largest party in the incoming parliament, Paetongtarn Shinawatra's Pheu Thai party.

Paetongtarn is the prime ministerial candidate for Phey Thai, and one of its most prominent leaders. However, the party is led by Chonlanan Srikawe.

MFP is the largest, with 152 seats, while Pheu Thai trails with 141 seats.

The other six parties are considerably smaller, all holding a single digit number of seats, for a total of 313 seats.

The coalition has now put out a 23-point Memorandum of Understanding detailing common policies to be pursued by the coalition, as well as a set of guidelines determining how the country will be governed.

The MOU itself is an extensive 23-point plan with plans for significant reform, including new budgeting rules and other economic reforms aimed at land reform and expanded public welfare, as detailed by Thai PBS.

But it also involves significant electoral reforms as well , such as a new constitution drafted by directly elected representatives, likely in contrast to the appointed senate.

Cannabis use to be regulated

The MOU also included stipulations against corruption and malfeasance, as well as working towards public interest, as opposed to that of individual party's.

Cannabis is to be reclassified as a narcotic and introduce a law to regulate it use, as well as to combat narcotic drug problems urgently.

According to The Nation, Pita clarified that sellers of cannabis who  had thus far adhered to rules and protocols "would not have to worry about any impact".

The reclassification was aimed at illegal imports and permitless sale of the drug. Pita said the aim was so that "we can control and slowly adjust Thai Society, especially school children, to the exposure to cannabis".

There is also a plan to legalise same sex marriage.

Compromises were made by coalition partners to form the MOU, with initial reports suggesting that other coalition partners wanted to specifically indicate their loyalty to the king as head of state.

Less lese majesty

Because the Thai Prime Minister is decided by a combined vote of the lower house of parliament, and the appointed senate, this coalition is still short of the 376 seats needed to become government.

But MFP has begun to take steps to make itself more palatable to the senate, and this can be seen in its approach to policy priorities in its MOU with the rest of the coalition.

Not in the MOU is MFP's election promise to reform Thailand's Lese Majesty law.

However MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat said that the MOU did not prevent parties from perusing individual priorities, as long as it did not conflict with the MOU, according to the Bangkok Post.

MFP has a pro-reform stance towards the monarchy, which allowed more conservative elements of Thai political life to paint them as anti-royalty.

Concerns about being associated with MFP has led to the third largest party in the incoming parliament to outright state they would not work with MFP.

Had they been involved, the coalition would have the seats they needed to bypass the senate.

The concession made was the inclusion of the line that "the missions of the MFP-led government must not affect the democratic system with the king as head of state and the revered status of the king who cannot be violated", as reported by the Bangkok Post

Bloc party

The 250 member appointed senate voted as a bloc in 2019 to approve the minority government of former general Prayut Chan-Ocha, and there are concerns they might do the same now.

The senate was appointed by the military government that came to power after the 2014 coup that ousted the aunt of Pheu Thai's Paetongtarn, Yingluck Shinawatra.

May 22, the day that the MoU was signed, marked the 9th anniversary of the coup, and as quoted in The Nation, Pita said that the MOU symbolically "closes the chapter" of that period of Thailand's history.

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Top image via @sudaratofficial/Twitter