Thanathorn: Students on right track

Thanathorn: Students on right track

'Inconvenient truth' of monarchy reform needs to be discussed, says former FFP leader

Progressive Movement co-founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit speaks to reporters during a brief appearance at the Sanam Luang pro-democracy protest on Sept 19. (Post File Photo).
Progressive Movement co-founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit speaks to reporters during a brief appearance at the Sanam Luang pro-democracy protest on Sept 19. (Post File Photo).

Progressive Movement founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has expressed support for student protesters calling for reforms to the monarchy, saying Thai people must tackle an “inconvenient truth” about the country.

In an interview with Kyodo News on Friday, the former leader of the now-disbanded Future Forward Party said reforms are a necessary process of transforming Thailand into a democratic country in which the monarchy would “stay above politics”.

The student-led protest movement, which drew tens of thousands to Sanam Luang last weekend, has been calling for the resignation of the military-aligned government, a new constitution and an end to state harassment of those who criticise the authorities.

Some of its leaders have also been outspoken in their demands to reform the monarchy. They have been promoting a 10-point manifesto that touches on a number of issues including public funding of palace activities. 

According to Mr Thanathorn, who now serves as an adviser to a House of Representatives budget scrutiny committee, one of the issues related to the palace is spending that is big and not transparent, and cannot be scrutinised.

“If you take taxpayers’ money, you have to be transparent. If you don’t want to open your spending to the public, use your own money,” he said.

The 41-year-old billionaire emphasised that the reforms he is calling for do not include the monarchy’s abolition. He said he sees placing the monarchy truly under the constitution as the best way to preserve it as an institution.

“As a constitutional monarchy, the monarchy has to be above politics,” he said. “Bringing the monarchy into politics is dangerous as otherwise people would start criticising the monarchy.”

Mr Thanathorn praised the students who have taken to streets with their concerns. “I admire their courage. … Monarchy reform has been in the public consciousness for decades, but no one dared to raise it.”

Fear of reprisal and self-censorship had long stifled talk of reform, he said.

He said the first step toward guiding the monarchy and its functions to be in harmony with the constitution’s democratic principles is allowing people to talk about the reform issue freely.

“Each country has its own inconvenient truth. … We should be able to talk about this issue safely, and the right to freedom of speech must be protected at all costs,” he said.

Mr Thanathorn also criticised the decision by coalition MPs and senators on Thursday to put off consideration of constitutional amendments for another month, by setting up a study committee that the opposition has boycotted.

He said the move was a ploy to buy time, and that ruling lawmakers have underestimated the people’s anger.

He also dismissed the possibility of the student-led protests turning violent and unintentionally opening the door to another coup.

It would be too risky for the military to plot a coup because Thai people are now so powerful they can resist a coup, Thanathorn said. But “whether it would be a soft or hard landing is up to the establishment”, he said.

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