One senator has reacted by saying “bring it on!”
Thai senators found themselves in the crosshairs of backlash from supporters of the Move Forward Party after the party leader, Pita Limjaroenrat’s unsuccessful bid for the position of prime minister last Thursday.
The joint parliamentary voting session to elect a new Thai PM saw only 206 senators in attendance (out of a total of 249), with the results revealing that 13 senators voted in favour of Mr. Pita, 34 voted against. An astonishing 159 abstained, and 43 were absent (some on holidays).
In the aftermath of the vote, MFP supporters have taken to social media to launch a ‘cancel’ campaign on the senators who voted against or abstained from supporting the party leader, 42 year old Pita Limjareonrat. The hashtag “Senator’s businesses” quickly gained traction on Thai Twitter, amassing over 1 million tweets in the 24 hours following the vote.
The supporters went so far as to target the family members of the senators and launched a campaign against their businesses.
Various businesses owned by the senators were exposed on social media, ranging from a market, an insurance company, a beauty clinic, a football team and a petrol station. One restaurant, with a banner explicitly stating that senators who opposed Mr. Pita or abstained were “unwelcome”, circulated online.
Sen Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, one of the senators who abstained, took to Facebook on Saturday to condemn the harassment inflicted on senators and their families, as well as those who held divergent opinions.
“I am disappointed over the post-vote campaign that resorted to abusive language against the senators.”
She said that a fake Facebook account had been created under her name, delivering a message attacking the MFP. This deceit, as she described it, even drew criticism from supporters of the MFP.
“Bring it on, and I will record all the comments and take legal action.”
Another senator, Ronwarit Pariyachattrakul, who also chose to abstain during Thursday’s vote, spoke up to lend support to his children who, he said, were likely to face hostility from their friends who backed Mr. Pita.
He emphasised that unless the MFP retracted its intention to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, commonly known as the lese majeste law, he would never vote in favour of Mr. Pita’s nomination for prime minister.
In a plea to Mr. Pita’s supporters, Mr. Ronwarit highlighted the importance of upholding democratic principles by accepting and respecting diverse opinions.
“If your friends truly value democracy, they should accept and respect different opinions.”
Let’s see if the other Thai senators take the same advice.