The Thai Rak Thai Party (Thai: พรรคไทยรักไทย, lit. Thais Love Thais; TRT) was a Thai political party that was officially banned on May 30, 2007, by the Constitutional Court of Thailand due to violations of electoral laws during the 2006 legislative elections. From 2001 to 2006, it was the ruling party under Prime Minister and its founder Thaksin Shinawatra. Eight months after a military coup forced Thaksin to stay in exile, the party was dissolved on May 30, 2007 by the Constitutional Tribunal for violation of electoral laws, with 111 former party members banned from participating in politics for five years.
Thai Rak Thai Party
|Leader||Thaksin Shinawatra (1998-2006)
Chaturon Chaisang (2006-2007)
|Founded||July 14, 1998|
|Dissolved||May 30, 2007|
|Succeeded by||People's Power Party (de facto)|
|Colors||Red, Dark blue|
The Thai Rak Thai was registered on July 15, 1998, by telecommunications entrepreneur Thaksin Shinawatra and 22 other founding members, including Somkid Jatusripitak, Thanong Bidaya, Sudarat Keyuraphan, Purachai Piumsombun, Thammarak Isaragura na Ayuthaya, and Prommin Lertsuridej.
The Thai Rak Thai party had a populist platform, appealing to indebted farmers, who had become indebted as a result of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, with promises of a strong economic recovery. The party also reached out to rural villages, and struggling businesses. Thai Rak Thai's policies have included a 30 baht per hospital visit scheme, an extended debt moratorium for farmers, 1 million baht microcredit development funds for all rural districts, and the One Tambon One Product project. However, it neglected some rural areas and the southern provinces, since Thaksin openly stated he saw no reason to do anything for areas that did not vote for him.
Thai Rak Thai won the legislative election of 2001 by a landslide margin over the ruling Democrat Party led by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. Forty percent of elected MPs were freshmen. Thai Rak Thai was able to negotiate for a merger with the New Aspiration Party and a coalition with the Thai Nation Party, resulting in a majority of 325 out of 500 seats for the coalition government.
The Thai Rak Thai Party was the first political party in Thailand to have been represented by more than half of the members of the House of Representatives. In the 2005 legislative election, the party's candidates were elected to occupy 376 seats of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives, defeating the largest opposition party, the Democrat Party. It won 96 seats. After the election, Thailand's first single party government was successfully formed.
In the invalid elections of April 2006, it won 61.6% of the vote and 460 out of 500 seats, many without any opposition, and the rest remaining vacant because it was boycotted by the opposition parties in the first past the post electoral system.
As an amalgam of several different parties, Thai Rak Thai politicians owe their allegiance to different factions. Precise figures on faction membership do not exist, but the best estimates of the numerical strength of the major factions are provided below. These numbers are based on the membership of the House of Representatives elected in the 2005 general election, which was dissolved on February 24, 2006.
On the evening of Tuesday September 19, 2006, the Thai military seized control of Bangkok to take over the government of the Kingdom. In the meantime, Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York City attending a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Most of the TRT executive leadership members were also abroad: Deputy Premier Surakiart Sathirathai was with Thaksin in New York, Finance Minister Thanong Bidaya was in Singapore attending the annual meeting of the World Bank/IMF, Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak was attending the Thai-France Cultural Exhibition in Paris with Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon and HRH Princess Sirindhorn.
Several party executives remaining in Thailand were arrested and detained by the junta. Deputy Prime Minister in charge of national security Chitchai Wannasathit and Defence Minister Thammarak Isaragura na Ayuthaya were in Thailand and were immediately arrested and detained by the junta. Secretary-General to the Premier Prommin Lertsuridej was also arrested. Natural Resources and Environmental Minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat and Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchop were ordered to report themselves to the junta by Thursday September 21. Both reported themselves and were also detained.
Several party executives including Chaturon Chaisang, Phumtham Wechayachai, Suranand Vejjajiva, Veera Musikapong, Party Deputy and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit and former Social Development and Human Security Minister Watana Muangsook were reported to be in Thailand and running free.
With Thaksin and key party executives either abroad or arrested, the reaction of TRT party members was muted and disorganized. In Thaksin's absence, Chaturon Chaisang became the acting party leader.
Several former MPs believed the party would be dissolved by the junta, including former Khon Kaen MP Prajak Kaewklaharn. However, former Udon Thani MP Thirachai Saenkaew, called for the junta to allow Thaksin to contest the next election, claiming that TRT supporters wanted Thaksin to return to politics.
Former Sakon Nakhon MP Chalermchai Ulankul said that although he and others might be unemployed for about a year, his faction was "firm" and preparing to run in the election next year. "As long as the Thai Rak Thai Party is not dissolved, we can't say we will move to be under any other party. However, I don't know who will continue the TRT."
Many party members were reported to have dropped their party membership in the aftermath of the coup. These included Somsak Thepsuthin and 100 members of the Wang Nam Yom faction. It was not clear whether Suriya Jungrungreangkit, another influential member of the faction would also resign. Sonthaya Kunplome also was reported to have led 20 members of the Chonburi faction in resigning from the party. Fear that the party would be dissolved by the junta and its members banned from politics fueled the defections.
The party's future was shrouded in doubt following the military coup that ousted Thaksin's government in September 2006. The party was dissolved on May 30, 2007 by the order of the Constitutional Tribunal for violation of election laws. A few high-ranking party members were found to be directly involved in bribing several small parties into competing in constituencies that were bases of the former opposition parties to ensure that minimum turnout rules were met in favor of the TRT party and its partners. 111 members of the party, including former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, were barred from participating in politics for a five-year period, with only eight out of the 119 charged acquitted. The remaining MPs and members of the party reorganized in the People's Power Party.
|Election||Total seats won||Total votes||Share of votes||Outcome of election||Election leader|
248 / 500
|11,634,495||40.6%||248 seats; Governing coalition (TRT-NAP-CTP)||Thaksin Shinawatra|
375 / 500
|14,077,711||56.4%||127 seats; Governing coalition (TRT-MP)||Thaksin Shinawatra|
460 / 500
|16,246,368||61.1%||85 seats; nullified||Thaksin Shinawatra|