Political novice Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit has proclaimed that his young-blood party, Future Forward, will field candidates in all 350 constituencies across the country at the general election, being ready to fully penetrate Thai politics.
Described by some observers as being full of hipsters, and mostly young urban people, Future Forward has been slapped down in some quarters as not being able to connect to the mass grass-roots voters outside Bangkok and the main provincial towns.
But the political-enthusiast billionaire insisted he had 10 months before the election, and was taking it seriously as no current players could represent his interest in politics.
Thanathorn made the remarks on Monday in an interview on Facebook Live with alternative online news outlet The Standard, five days after the party had made its official launch, which rocked the media and the country’s ‘old’ politics.
He expressed his aspiration not to be part of a ruling coalition, but to form a single-party government.
However, if that ambition was unrealised, he said he would join a coalition under one condition: that the partner party must sign a memorandum of understanding with Future Forward accepting certain terms and conditions.
The Future Forward leader said the party would then be ready to walk out if the partner in the coalition broke the contract.
He would be ready to be the opposition party, too, he said, adding that he understood very well that it would take time to make the changes he wanted to see.
Thanathorn, for the first time, also officially refuted a lese-majeste allegation against him.
It had started with the so-called “lese-majeste chart” presented by then-government officials during the political demonstration in 2010, he said.
Thanathorn’s name was on the chart and a reputation of his being critical of the monarchy had persisted ever since, he explained.
However, the problematic chart has since been proved untrue, he stressed, and the government official who had publicised it at the time had already revealed that it was a made-up story.
The chart had also suggested he had a connection with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Thanathorn’s uncle, Suriya.
Thanathorn has been viewed as “the next Thaksin” too, given his background and political ambition. However, the billionaire businessman refuted the comment, pointing out that his business and Thaksin’s were different.
“I met my uncle once a year at the annual family gathering and we only asked each other about our well-being,” he said during the interview.
“And as for Thaksin, I met him the last time more than 10 years ago when he visited my ailing father. We haven’t been in contact since,” he added.
Thanathorn admitted that he had invested Bt200,000 with a friend to launch the highly controversial publishing house Same Sky Books, which is often alleged to have printed books critical of the monarchy.
However, the investment was made out of his earnest intention to make possible a social-science journal, he insisted.
“And there’s nothing illegal about the publishing house. It is still operational until today,” he said. “If it was lese majeste, it would have been closed down.”
The Future Forward leader also disclosed some ideas about his party’s policies.
Firstly, the party would overturn all concession deals, liberate the trades and lift the restrictions that hindered businesses today, he said.
Then, it would restructure the country by decentralising it.
And lastly, it would give opportunity to new-generation people and encourage them to be creative, including in the area of the gaming industry in which many young people are interested, he told The Standard.