ONCE KNOWN as a social activist, who focused on searching for missing persons, Sombat Boongamanong became a political actor after the 2006 military coup when he wore red to express his political opinion. He manages to draw public attention with his political gimmicks.
“I consider myself an actor,” Sombat told The Nation in a colourful room of the Mirror Foundation of which he was once the chairman. “People don’t like seriousness. They like fun. If you want them to listen to you, be funny.”
Targeting all parties
Sombat is stepping up his role in politics with plans to form an alternative Grean Party, whose rough translation in Thai is “troll”. That, Sombat said, is exactly what his planned party aims to do.
“We’re going to troll every party out there. Whatever policies they will present, we will tease them, triggering more creative debates on social issues,” said Sombat, who is also widely known as Bor Kor Lai Jood or “Dotty Editor”, dubbed after the 101 Dalmatians movie from years ago.
From Sombat wearing a dotty doggie hat to the election to playing an RoV online game with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, people may not be able to comprehend how the Grean Party could emerge as an alternative party in the next election.
Who would imagine that a busty net idol, Rungtawan Chaiha, would not only join Sombat’s team in smashing Thanathorn in an online game but also be of political interest to Sombat?
“Why not? She can encourage a great deal of public interest in e-Sport, a significant part of modern technology,” Sombat said of Rungtawan, who has attracted over 940,000 followers on her Facebook account.
While Rungtawan’s fondness to show off her large cleavage is always controversial, her skill and understanding as an online game administrator is unquestionable.
“Those who follow her may or may not be political fans. And my goal is to make politics more touchable, even to those who are apolitical,” Sombat said. “Although I haven’t seriously thought of asking her to be a party member yet.”
So, does the Grean Party just plan to have fun? No, says Sombat categorically. They follow a pirate party model, which has been long active in European countries but remains new to Thailand.
Instead of broad policies that aim to win over voters nationwide, pirate parties focus on less-mainstream social and minority issues. The Grean Party, with its share of NGO advocates and thinkers, should be no different.
Currently, the Grean Party is working on a range of issues: from rabies management, eSport, LGBT, arts and culture, reduction of paper work for school teachers to creating online, free encyclopaedia via crowdsourcing methods much like Wikipedia.
But people’s needs are far more than that. Mainstream parties would be able to respond to just a dozen of them, mostly the major, national level ones.
Focusing on issues of lesser public interest, however, should not be ignored just because they might not get them as many votes as possible.
Several mechanisms in the junta-written 2017 charter can be expected to hinder parties in the election battle. This does not mean that the Grean Party would take politics lightly.
“Despite how we may look, we’re committed to become the people’s institution. We would like to have one or two MPs in the system. We have the ambition to be around for at least 20 years,” he said
“We don’t want to become so big as to come to power. However, we want to maintain our identity as a party that gathers social think tanks to create and reflect public policies proposed by both us and other political parties,” he added.
He dubbed the Grean Party as “issue-based”. The party will bring together members with varied interests and backgrounds before formulating policies and then presenting them to the public.
No to populism
He made it clear that they would not make policies that “pampered the masses like how most parties do”.
“We would open spaces for thinkers of small-scale ideas that are generally ignored by major parties.”
While taking on parties with different ideologies may be the least of their concerns – as they plan to “troll” every party from the start – there are still huge challenges for the Grean Party, if it is registered, to hold primary elections in all its contesting constituencies, find sufficient number of members to get such votes, and raise money for its activities.
But in this so-called 4.0 era, Sombat said that everything should be more economically possible via online methods and available in the public free space.
“After all, we won’t stay in traditions parties have understood to abide by,” he added.