Wiroj picks up baton as scourge of govt
Disbanding his party couldn't stop MP from shining in censure debate
MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn of the dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP) became something of an overnight sensation last Tuesday when, during the televised censure debate, he presented details of information operations (IO) allegedly run by the state against critics of the government, opposition supporters and activists.
Judging from the online reaction, Mr Wiroj's revelations certainly shocked many viewers, many of whom were likely on the cusp of switching off after a day of mostly asinine to-ing and fro-ing between the opposition and government.
Even though this was the first time he had grilled Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in parliament, Mr Wiroj impressed political observers and the public alike with his well researched claims.
Exposing the IO attacks which he alleges were orchestrated to shed a negative light on opponents of the government is another step towards realising party political ambitions that he insists will not be dimmed by the dissolution of the FFP.
"We want to win," Mr Wiroj told the Bangkok Post in a recent interview, referring to goals of his former party and its supporters, which involve freeing Thai politics from the influence of the military.
"But we don't want to simply eliminate rivals. We need victory that can lead us to reform."
The FFP was dissolved by the Constitutional Court over an illegal loan to the party from leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit just days before Mr Wiroj took part in the four-day debate.
Ex-party executives have vowed to work with people to carry on their activities outside parliament.
Tuesday's debate was just the start in efforts to expose irregularities in the government camp, says Mr Wiroj, whose eloquent and forceful presentation persuaded Gen Prayut to launch a probe into the allegations.
"It's the power of the legislature which did a great job in keeping the government in check," Mr Wiroj said humbly when asked about the positive reaction to his performance in parliament.
What really thrilled him was, for the first time in Thai political history, people could follow a censure debate via social media channels, he said.
That night, Mr Wiroj even encouraged audiences to scan a QR (quick response) code he showed on screen to enter a Line group that he said was part of the IO.
He accused the army of being behind a misinformation campaign in the South and blamed the government for threatening the unity of Thai society which has been fragile since the Sept 19, 2006 coup staged by then army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin.
Mr Wiroj stressed Thailand cannot compete with other countries if it remains trapped by old quarrels and a dated political culture.
Future Forward is working with people to awaken the government to the need for a big change. Authorities may not listen to him or his dissolved party, but they cannot ignore the voices of the people, he said.
If the whole country wants the government to change, "the best thing it can do is to adjust itself", Mr Wiroj said.
He wants the government, which is closely linked with the military, to become more decentralised, and distribute its power locally across the country.
Many other countries like Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, have all followed this path and enjoyed rapid development, he said.
One main duty of the government, in Mr Wiroj's view, is to act as a welfare state by relieving people of financial burdens such as those incurred in by health and education needs.
This, he believes, will pave the way for raising the value of Thailand's human capital.
"Ideally, when people have nothing to be worried about, they will have the courage to create, pioneer and invent new things."
The 42-year-old engineer-turned politician said he decided to join Future Forward because its core ideology involved putting these two ideas (decentralisation and the welfare state) into practice, moves he believes will unlock the country's potential and free it from decades-old political conflicts.
"I had not expected that I would become an MP because I was ranked 34th on the party-list," recalled Mr Wiroj, who earned his bachelor's degree in automotive engineering from Chulalongkorn University and acquired more skills in business and economics at the master's and doctorate levels.
"In fact, I was preparing to start my own business after last year's election."
But the FFP's strong showing saw him became an MP and now, due to his censure debate showing, he has been marked out as a rising political star after the expulsion from politics of former FFP leader Thanathorn and ex-secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.
Mr Wiroj admitted he is not close to Mr Thanathorn and only knows Mr Piyabutr through the books he writes.
That is why people have never seen him standing beside or behind Mr Thanathorn during photo sessions.
"I don't want to be wallpaper for anybody," he said.
Mr Wiroj says he enjoys working with people who share the same political ideology and is optimistic for the future.
"Today we have more and more people who want to join our journey.
"They empower us and can help us change Thai society in a peaceful way."