The “#ShiftBangkok” campaign of Future Forward Party (FWP), led by former auto-parts tycoon-turned-politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, steered into Bangkok’s Chinatown on Monday to introduce the new party and its leader as well as seek new members.
It was the first time FWP had reached out to Bangkokians on the capital’s streets since the creation of the party. Thanathorn said he chose to kick off the campaign in Bangkok’s Bangrak and Chinatown districts because it was where his family came from originally.
“It’s nice to start this [campaign] where I grew up. We have been very warmly welcomed around here,” he said. “Those who didn’t already know about [the party] got to know us today. And those who already knew us, showered us with their support. The feedback has been great.”
The party members marched along the 1.3-kilometre route along Yaowarat Road, which hosts the largest Chinese community in Bangkok, to both introduce the party and encourage the passers-by as well as the local merchants to apply for membership of the party.
Although political activities have been restricted by the ruling junta, the party on Monday said that it had been granted permission by the Election Commission to enrol new members.
FWP leader Thanathorn himself walked into different stores along the street, handing out leaflets bearing information about membership applications and introducing FWP as “a party of the new generation volunteering to drive new politics”.
A number of people on Monday greeted the group warmly. Some asked to take a photo with Thanathorn. Although it is widely believed that FWP’s main supporters are the younger generation, Thanathorn on Monday met mostly with middle-aged female supporters.
Some of the local merchants on Monday admitted that they did not know much about the parties but welcomed the introduction of the new party on Monday. Others claimed to be a fan and said they had been following the party’s news closely.
At one point a woman, likely in her 50s, appeared sceptical and asked Thanathorn directly how he would approach corruption and whether he would really be able to prevent future coups.
Thanathorn responded that law enforcement agencies would be the instruments to tackle corruption and that he would try to prevent future coups before agreeing to take a selfie with the woman. The woman declined to give her name to The Nation.
During the march on Monday, a man eagerly came out of a gold shop where he was shopping and loudly celebrated FWP, saying, “Go, Go FWP!”
Later identifying himself as Bunchong Kunsupsak, he said he was rooting for FWP, hoping the party could bring new hope to Thai politics.
“I’m tired of the old politics,” the 66-year-old said.
The party’s march concluded at a local traditional, small Chinese coffee shop where Thanathorn’s mother, Somporn Juangroongruangkit, talked to the press.
She said Thanathorn had always been keen about politics and social work. However, in the past 16 years, he had worked in the family business and only decided to join politics this year when he was 39, she said.
The mother said she disagreed with the idea at first. However, as her son had already set his mind on this path, she had to support him and wished him success, Somporn said.
“I can guarantee that this man is not in politics for his own gain. He just wants to help society,” Thanathorn’s mother said. “I asked him to choose between [the family business] and Thailand and he answered without hesitation that he chose Thailand. So, I understand his determination.”