Bouquet, brickbats for political hopeful

Bouquet, brickbats for political hopeful

Parit 'Itim' Wacharasindhu says reform is the key

"A politician with a clear stand and something to offer must be ready for criticism," said Parit 'Itim' Wacharasindhu, charter review co-sponsor. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

Parit "Itim" Wacharasindhu has stepped out of obscurity to chart his own destiny in politics.

Having former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as his uncle, Mr Parit is already a somebody. At the same time, he refuses to lurk in anyone's shadow.

Having constructive dialogues over tough and contentious issues nurtures freedom, he said.

Mr Parit, 29, has assumed many roles since returning from England where he received his education. His latest effort was co-pushing a bill seeking to dismantle remnants of the "Prayutocracy", which earned him both bouquets and brickbats.

Among items in the bill that sent the political mercury soaring were the proposed dismantling of coup-appointed senators that critics said have helped prop up the government and the introduction of a unicameral parliament.

The bill, however, was shot down even before it was accepted at its first reading after the majority of lawmakers -- including all but three senators -- voted it down.

Recalling his experience as a newsmaker, he said his taste of publicity first came when he was president of the Oxford Union and later when he contested in the 2019 election under the Democrat Party ticket, but lost.

When the Democrats joined the Prayut government he quit the party. It was a clear sign he and the party operated on different ideologies and so they amicably parted ways.

After that, he went into a start-up business called StartDee which develops education-related applications. At that point, he began a campaign pressing for charter fixes. However, it didn't attract much attention.

But his MP candidacy caught the media's eye. Reporters asked him questions which invited feedback from people. Sometimes, he was criticised even before he voiced his views.

But he insisted the media and the people must be able to scrutinise politicians whose decisions matter to the lives of the public.

"Being a public figure in politics draw both likes and dislikes. A politician with a clear stand and something to offer must be ready for criticism regardless of whether it is expressed constructively or with emotion," he said.

Mr Parit added he avoids micro-targeting a person when he comments or critiques as he tries to analyse the wider structure or system. A case in point is his bid seeking to have parliament accept the charter amendment draft, backed by more than 100,000 people, to undo the system allegedly designed by the coup-maker to prolong his grip on power.

One should not be judged for exercising his freedom of speech as long as that speech does not contain false claims, he said.

Mr Parit said he entered politics keen to be an agent of change. When he won a scholarship and went to study at a secondary school in England, he was able to draw a comparison to a half-baked democracy fraught with inequality that exists in Thailand.

Quality varied from school to school depending on location and the discrepancy in public access to healthcare. Same-sex couples were denied their right to marry.

A sense of resignation runs deep in society.

"Here in Thailand we often hear the phrase: That's the way it is. It can't be changed," Mr Parit said. "But England was living proof that hurdles to democracy were beatable."

After graduation, he did not set his sights on working in politics. Instead, he joined a law firm and cultivated his experience advising state agencies in many countries and took part in the development of tourism, health and public transport systems in Asean.

Mr Parit said he decided to get into the political arena as the door was opening wider for young politicians.

He spent a fair amount of time thinking things through before applying to the Democrat Party because he disagreed with the mass protests by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which demanded the ouster of former premier Yingluck Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai Party-led administration.

Several Democrat stalwarts quit the party to direct the PDRC movement which was active from October 2013 to May 2014.

Mr Parit said he was also disappointed that the Democrats boycotted the 2014 election. He kept his distance from the Democrats and eventually joined the party after se+veral core leaders who supported the PDRC left the party.

"I thought that was a turning point for the Democrats and I went in and co-founded the NewDem group," he said, referring to a group of the party's young politicians who offered more liberal policies than the Democrat's.

However, he later parted ways with the party with the last straw being the Democrats' entry into the Prayut coalition government.

Mr Parit is juggling between being CEO of StartDee and his role as an active and concerned citizen who established the so-called Progressive Constitution group aimed at reforming the charter.

The group comes under the Re-Solution umbrella and he is working closely with Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement.

During his time with the NewDems, he struck a chord with the Future Forward Party, now dissolved, since reborn into the Progressive Movement.

He and the movement shared common ground in their push for a charter rewrite and reform of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, more widely known as the lese majeste law.

He said many conversations later led to him and the Progressive Movement agreeing that a charter rewrite initiative should be product of an inclusive process and not a business restricted to political parties.

Mr Parit has shrugged off the label of being bent on undermining the monarchy by advocating reform of the higher institution. He said such reform, trumpeted by the youth-led protests, is legitimate under the constitutional monarchy.

He argued Section 112 is problematic in its enforcement and its punishment too heavy. He also opposes the part of the law which enables anyone to file lese majeste charges against others.

The section begs an extensive discussion and any attempt to improve the law should not be misconstrued as an act of sabotage, he said.

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