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BusinessWorld analysis looks at Thai elections as model for opposition

CHEERS TO BusinessWorld's news analysis on the outcome of the recently-concluded Thai elections and what the Philippines can learn from it.

Kyle Aristophere Atienza's article broke out of the parochial scope of Philippine media's coverage of international events, Philippine media reports foreign news, , including those in the ASEAN region, focus mainly on the involvement of Philippine participation, public officials or civic leaders and athletes in tournaments. Disasters and political turmoil around the world report on the impact on affected Filipinos in the country.

Atienza, however, noted the significance and relevance of the recent elections in Thailand and the game-changing win of the Move Forward Party, which had positioned itself against the military junta that had dominated Thai politics for over a decade. Former coup leader General Prayuth Chan-o-cha was elected Prime Minister in 2014.

Led by young politicians, the party captured the youth vote, winning more than 100 out of 500 seats in parliament. With four other opposition groups, including Pheu Thai, the party of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinatwatra, the anti-military forces now outnumber the right-wing parties supporting Prayuth.

A quick scan of the Thai political landscape drew out points of interest to the Philippines, particularly the need for an active opposition in democratic government. The two chambers of Congress have been controlled by supporters of the President in both the present and preceding administrations. Atienza cited insights of four academics in political science: Arjan Aguirre of the Ateneo de Manila University, Aries Arugay of the University of the Philippines and Anthony Lawrence Borja of the De La Salle University; and political economy researcher Hansley Juliano currently based in Nagoya University's Graduate School of International Development.

All four sources emphasized the crucial role of Thailand's youth in registering record-high votes and challenging the country's military rule. They agreed that the young membership of both parties represented the youth of the nation and the desire among young citizens for change and reform. Move Forward is headed by 42-year-old Pita Limjaroenrat, while the Pheu Thai party has for its leader 36-year-old Paetongtarn Shinawatra, son of Thaksin, who was overthrown in a 2006 military coup.

The experts cited noted the strengths of these opposition parties: engagement with groups and forces critical of the government, and the consistency of the message for pro-democracy reforms which connects to the role of youth activism in the history of political protests in Thailand.

The vote for Thai opposition came not only from capital Bangkok but also from rural areas previously held by Prayuth as the head of the military regime. The bank of experts agreed that the Thai opposition serves as a good model for its Philippine counterpart and should prompt action on the part of young people as well as politicians to discuss new strategies for political mobilization and formation of new parties.

International news has always served to broaden the horizons of the national community. This kind of reporting illustrates the power of news to provoke action, and perhaps inspire young politicians to refresh electoral choices, so a new generation can play a role in the task of nation-building.