A long history of military’s flirtation with Thailand’s electoral politics


THAI DEMOCRACY has long featured political parties that are either involved with the military or serve as military nominees, so the birth of a new one has not raised any eyebrows.

Former senator Paiboon Nititawan recently announced that he was setting up a party to specifically back Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue as the new prime minister. 
Paiboon’s move, however, is quite reminiscent of several other parties that were set up and then vanished with the winds of political change. 
The very first party with military ties was the Serimanangkasila Party, which was set up in 1955 by Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, with Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat as his deputy and Pol General Phao Sriyanond as secretary-general. The party won the general election and became part of the government, which was later brought down by Sarit himself. 
In 1957, Sukij Nimmanhaemin established the Sahapoom Party under the auspices of Sarit. The party won the election in the same year and backed Pote Sarasin as premier. 
Sarit then merged the Sahapoom Party with Serimanangkasila and turned it into the Chat Sangkom Party. Sarit then became leader of the Chat Sangkom Party, with Lt-General Thanom Kittikachorn and Sukij Nimmanhaemin as his deputies. The party backed Thanom for the premier’s job in 1958, but lost it nine months later when Sarit took over and made him the deputy premier. 
Sarit staged a coup against his own government in 1958 and took charge as the PM. Once Sarit died in 1963, Thanom took over as PM again. 
In 1968, Thanom set up Saha Pracha Thai led by him and his three deputies: Field Marshal Praphas Charusathien, Pol General Prasert Ruchiwong and Pote Sarasin. When the country suffered political turmoil in 1971, Thanom staged a coup against his own government, scrapped the charter and dissolved all political parties, including Saha Pracha Thai. He was eventually ousted in the October 14, 1973 uprising.
In 1991 the National Peacekeeping Council led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon staged a coup and then the Samakkitham Party was born. Narong Wongwan was the initial leader, but was swiftly removed because the United States had blacklisted him. The party then backed Suchinda as premier, who was behind the infamous quote “Sacrificing honesty for the country”. 
Suchinda was overthrown following a pro-democracy uprising known as Black May in 1992.
In 2006, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin led the National Security Council to oust the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. The following year, the Matuphum Party, originally named Rassadon Party, was created and Sonthi was invited to become leader. However, this party lost in the general elections. 
Several other parties have been suspected to be military nominees such as Pheu Phandin Party led by Suwit Khunkitti and Matchima Thippathai Party. 
When the People Power Party won the election, these parties joined it to form a coalition government. 
In 2014, Prayut led the National Council for Peace and Order to stage a coup and two years hence, Paiboon has announced that he will form the People’s Reform Party and back Prayut for a second term as premier. 
Political observers believe several medium- and small-sized parties are now hoping to cling to the pro-military sentiment and become part of the next government.