Thai politics enters the twilight zone

Opposition party Future Forward accused of links to a secret society that no longer exists
Thai politics enters the twilight zone

Rangsiman Rome, a pro-democracy activist turned Future Forward politician, poses for a selfie with a supporter of the party in Bangkok. (Photo by Tibor Krausz/ucanews.com)

Political foes of Thailand’s popular Future Forward Party have accused its members of myriad crimes and misdemeanors since its robust showing at the polls this past March.

Accusations of disrespect, corruption, sedition and outright treason have all been hurled liberally at several of the party’s MPs on the flimsiest of grounds.

Yet some of the latest claims about the allegedly nefarious aims of Future Forward politicians have entered truly bizarre territory.

According to Natthaporn Toprayoon, a prominent lawyer who once served as an adviser to Thailand’s Ombudsman, Future Forward politicians are doing the bidding of a mysterious secret society called the Illuminati.

Conspiracy theorists worldwide have credited the Illuminati (“Enlightened Ones”), who allegedly seek to create a New World Order, with having been behind earth-shaking events throughout modern history, from the French Revolution to the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy.

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Believed to be acting as devious master puppeteers pulling strings from the shadows, the Illuminati are alleged by conspiracy theorists to try and undermine societies through subversive messages spread via popular culture and social media. 

Citing Future Forward’s liberally minded policy proposals, Natthaporn has submitted a petition to the country’s Constitutional Court, claiming the party poses a threat to Thailand’s hallowed monarchy by secretly wanting to overthrow it. The lawyer has called for the party to be dissolved.

In his petition Natthaporn also accused the party’s politicians of being openly against Buddhist values.

The lawyer’s primary evidence for his claims is the party’s triangular orange logo. If turned upside down, Natthaporn says, the logo bears a close resemblance to the Illuminati’s symbol — an Egyptian pyramid with an all-seeing eye on top.

In other words, despite allegedly being members of a highly secretive organization, Future Forward politicians supposedly wear their affiliations practically on their sleeves with their logo.

Yet even if, for whatever reason, members of Future Forward wanted to join the ranks of the Illuminati, which seems doubtful, they would be hard-pressed to do so. That is because this hugely powerful cabal of schemers with a global reach exists only in the feverish dreams of conspiracy theorists.

Founded in 1776 by Johann Adam Weishaupt, a German philosopher, in Bavaria, the Illuminati were a quasi-masonic movement whose goals included spreading Enlightenment values by combating superstitious beliefs and opposing religious indoctrination by Christian churches. 

“The order of the day is to put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them,” the society’s founders explained in their charter.

They did not get far in doing so. Along with other secret societies like the Freemasons, the Illuminati were outlawed by Bavaria’s then ruler within a few years of their founding.

But that has not stopped conspiracy theories from ascribing awesome powers to a fictitious Illuminati plot ever since. The movement’s members are alleged to be plotting ceaselessly and spreading mischief around the planet.

Through the centuries the Illuminati are also believed by conspiracy theorists to have been behind the overthrow of monarchies in Europe from France’s Louis XVI in the French Revolution to Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II in the Russian revolution.

Natthaporn says Future Forward has similar aims in Thailand. Such accusations are no laughing matter for the progressive Thai politicians as republicanism is a capital offense in the country. Any sign of it is penalized with Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law.

Politically motivated charges

In a Facebook post the party has dismissed the lawyer’s allegations as groundless.

“They [their opponents] are throwing all kinds of accusations at the party in the hope that some of these charges will stick,” says a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “This is one of the strangest.”

Several party members including head Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit are facing court cases on a variety of charges including sedition.

Many analysts deem these charges politically motivated. They see them as efforts through judicial means to disband the party in order to undermine its political appeal among young Thais and protect the status quo that benefits conservative forces

Natthaporn is hardly the only high-profile person to have hurled outlandish charges at members of Future Forward, which is highly popular with young voters.

Army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong argued in a recent interview with Reuters news agency that the army is fighting a “hybrid war” against people spreading “fake news” with the aim of turning Thai youth against the military and the monarchy.

“The threat now is fake news,” Apirat said. “Some political parties, just born a couple of years ago, had the platform of their propaganda directed to [people] when they were 16 and 17. They try to educate them with fake news.”

The army chief did not name the party but observers have widely taken him to refer to Future Forward, which was set up last year by Thanathorn, a young auto-parts billionaire, with several likeminded young political activists.

“We are not against the military. It is an important institution in Thailand,” Pannika Wanich, the party’s spokeswoman, responded in an interview with The Straits Times newspaper. “But we support a modernized military. General Apirat said before that the army won't interfere with politics, but he is doing exactly that.”

Pannika, too, has come in for plenty of personal attacks over the past few months. The Future Forward politician is being investigated by police for allegedly disrespecting the monarchy. As a graduating student in 2010, she posed with a picture of the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej in a manner that her detractors have decried as disrespectful.

After a string of small explosions rocked Bangkok in early August, a member of the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party suggested that Future Forward politicians were behind the bombs.

Police say the explosions were set off by Muslim separatists from the country’s restive southernmost region. In response, another Palang Pracharat politician accused Pannika of supporting Muslim terrorists and disrespecting the monarchy. Pannika has denied both charges.

In a series of Facebook posts, the pro-military politician has been waging an online vendetta against the Future Forward spokeswoman. In one recent post she called Pannika “traitorous scum.”

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