Launched in March, the Freedom Forward Party’s promises to reinstate democracy and build a more equal society appear to be resonating with citizens, with some labeling the party a “new hope,” on social media according to The Nation.
The party was co-founded by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a billionaire businessman who has developed a passion for social justice despite his own privileged position as a member of the family that owns Thailand’s largest auto-part supplier, Thai Summit.
His interest in politics and social issues can be traced back to his days as a student at Thailand’s Thammasat University in the 1990s, where was involved in volunteer camps and served as president of the Thammasat University Students Union, according to The Nation.
Though he has since take over his father’s business, Thanathorn has not lost interest in social causes, and told Sarakadee magazine that he would maintain ties with his activist friends, as it reminds him not to get deluded by money and power.
Thanathorn’s views are reflected in his party, which is viewed as “progressive.” One of the party’s main goals, however, is establishing a stable democracy.
“My mission is to install functional democracy with civilian supremacy in Thailand, send the military back to the barracks and rearrange civilian-military relations as it is supposed to be in a democratic country,” Thanathorn said in an interview with The Nation, suggesting that the elite and conservative middle class fear that an election will sweep a Thaksin Shinawatra-inspired party to power, and have prevented a democratic system from being properly implemented.
At the same time, those who favour elections focus on Thaksin to the point where they forget about the functioning of the parliamentary system.
“What we have to do is restore democracy and allow it to work to settle our conflicts,” he told The Nation. “We need more democracy, not less, to solve our problems. Thailand has a lot of problems such as poverty and inequality, but we want to lay a solid ground for democracy first, so human rights and the rule of law are important.”
The party is often viewed as appealing to young, left-wing Thais, though older people, conservatives and liberals have also expressed an interest.
Adding to the party’s appeal is that it lacks any connection with existing politicians or bureaucrats – besides Thanathorn, the other co-founders include law lecturer, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and representatives of different interest groups such as the leader of a Muslim students’ group, and a transgender rights campaigner, The Nation reported.
Still, it appears not everyone is happy to see a popular new progressive party on the scene.
Thanathorn revealed during a forum in March that he had received death threats but reiterated his commitment to ensuring the 2014 coup would be the country’s last, The Nation reported.
“My life mission before I die is that I would like to see the 2014 coup be the last for our country. I am ready to go to jail, or even die,” said Thanathorn.