Thanathorn’s popularity attracts scrutiny of junta after new party proposed

politics March 08, 2018 01:00


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AMID THE skyrocketing popularity of the young billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, notably expressed on social media after he announced his intention to set up a political party, the ruling junta plans to keep an eye on him and the “young generation” emerging as a third option in politics.

“I don’t want to analyse this, but I think the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] should keep its eye on it,” said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday, adding that most political activities remained restricted. 

“If lines are crossed, warnings will be made. If things go beyond that, we would have to ‘invite’ them to suspend [their activities],” he said.

His remarks came as Thanathorn’s name has attracted a robust online following his pledge to set up a political party with progressive law lecturer Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.

Despite not yet having a concrete plan about the party’s establishment, Thanathorn’s talk with on Facebook Live on Monday drew more than 100,000 viewers during the two-hour interview.

As part of the interview, Thanathorn said he had not concluded on a party name but it would certainly include the terms “country”, “Thai” or “democracy”. 

The hashtag #helpThanathorn-namehisparty has since become a top Twitter trend.

Tweets with the hashtag range from serious and playful name suggestions to pitches of products for sale, and even messages from foreign Twitter users who have no idea who Thanathorn is. 

However, people with related ideas have expressed hopes for new faces in politics.

“We should allow the younger generation to administer [the country]. We don’t know whether they are good or bad, but it’s worth a try. Those ‘uncles’ should take a rest,” said Twitter user @JAMPS14

“They don’t agree with [Article] 112 but it doesn’t mean they don’t want the monarchy. The ‘dinosaurs’ should not distort this,” said another user, @NONpayakphan, referring to Piyabutr, who previously proposed to amend the draconian Criminal Code’s Article 112 regarding lese majeste.

While the junta still has a ban in place against political gatherings of five or more people, prospective politicians have in effect expressed their stances since the Election Commission began to accept new party pre-registrations last week.

Many parties have also come forward with clear agendas to support Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha continuing in office after the election as an outsider premier following the 2017 charter’s mechanism.