The ‘Orange’ Army and the challenge of local battlegrounds


Move Forward Party would be wise to shed its Article 112 image if it is to compete in PAO chairman elections, always assuming it can avoid being disbanded

When the Senate election drew to a close, followers of “orange camp” fans were left heartbroken as only about 20 senators from their camp were elected, far below their target of around one-third or 67 senators. Despite the efforts over the past 2-3 months by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, chairman of the Progressive Movement and the so-called “orange prophet” and public sector bodies like iLaw, to push the Independent Voices campaign and encourage people to vote for senators of the people, the hoped-for victory didn’t come to fruition.

The political bargaining power, the push for a new constitutional amendment, and the selection of individuals to sit on independent organisations to reform the structure and make it more accessible to the people have all become daydreams.

Now, though, the disappointment must be temporarily set aside as there are two main scenarios that the Move Forward party must evaluate before it proceeds.

The first is fighting the party dissolution case against Move Forward, which is accused of seeking to overthrow Thailand's system of constitutional monarchy by seeking to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lese-majeste law). This is now in the hands of the Constitutional Court.

The next scenario is sending candidates to compete for the provincial administrative organisation (PAO) chairman positions across the country.

Initially, Chaithawat Tulathon, the party leader, led a team to introduce some of the orange camp PAO chairman candidates, but they encountered obstacles when many large families in various provinces chose to resign from their positions, leading to PAO elections in several provinces.

For instance, in Ang Thong, Nakhon Sawan and Pathum Thani, elections have already been held, and the winners were representatives of large families backed by major political parties.

In August, there will be four more PAO chairman elections: on August 4 in Chai Nat, Phayao, and Ayutthaya, and on August 11 in Chaiyaphum.

Move Forward did not and is not putting forward any candidates for these elections.
The large families have always been aware of their own support, making them quite competitive against the orange camp, and thus took advantage of the situation by resigning to gain a political edge while Move Forward is still establishing its footing in the PAO elections, with many provinces yet to finalise their candidates.
Move Forward is also well aware of this tactic, which is why the party chose not to send candidates for the seven PAO chairman positions.

To date, they have introduced PAO chairman candidates in only a few provinces, such as Phuket, Udon Thani, Chiang Mai, and Trat.

In Chiang Mai, they introduced Phan-at Chairat, former director of the National Innovation Agency (NIA) and the Lower Northern Special Economic Zone Development Subcommittee Commissioner. Initially, there was talk of sending Tassanee Buranupakorn, who resigned from the red camp (Pheu Thai) to join Move Forward. That idea was dismissed when photos of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra showing members of Buranupakorn family welcoming him during a visit to his home town were published.

With Move Forward's image associated with the amendment of Article 112, recruiting big-name candidates for PAO chairman positions is quite challenging. Although they previously attempted to negotiate with large families to run as candidates, the inability to shed the Article 112 image has led these clans to decide to collaborate with major political parties instead.

Moreover, Move Forward does not fully trust large families, unlike other political parties that have seamlessly integrated with these powerful clans due to similar political approaches.

As for its plans to send PAO chairman candidates nationwide, Pakornwut Udompipatsakul, Move Forward's party-list MP, revealed that the party is preparing for the 2025 PAO elections by sending candidates to provinces where this is strategically sound.

“We won't use the PAO chairman resignation tactic. Sending candidates won't be just about wanting to or thinking that the party has momentum because we shouldn't underestimate the people," Pakornwut said.

So while not competing in the seven areas that have already or are about to hold elections, Move Forward is playing a waiting game to watch what happens next. Undoubtedly, large families in many provinces, backed by major politicians, will not allow the "orange camp" to penetrate their bases and have already begun competing for support.

If Move Forward hopes to win local elections, it must shed the image of a party aiming to amend Article 112 to avoid repeating the defeat experienced by the Progressive Movement.

The first step though is to survive the Constitutional Court ordeal, a significant challenge that the Orange leaders must overcome before all else.