Thailand’s freshest political face, the scion of a billionaire Bangkok family, could easily have kept his executive job at his family’s auto parts business and lived off his wealth. But “how could I be happy doing that?” asks Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. “Millions of people out there are not free.”
Instead, Thanathorn, 39, has plunged into Thai politics, which has powered back to life after a nearly four-year hiatus. He is one of a new generation of young politicians, who are taking advantage of an easing of strict rules governing political activity to register their parties ahead of possible elections next year.
Thanathorn and the other newcomers — collectively nicknamed the “young bloods” — have begun to air their views on social media and to sit for interviews. In so doing, they are venturing into a legal gray zone in a country ruled by a military junta where unauthorized political gatherings are illegal. “If we do too much, we cross the line, but if we don’t do anything, we will lose the election,” Thanathorn says. “We don’t know where the law is; they never tell us. I think they prefer to keep it unclear.”
Sometimes you have to do something that is politically unpopular but correct, otherwise no bar would be raised.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Thai politician
Already, pundits are comparing Thanathorn to French President Emmanuel Macron, who channeled popular disgust with legacy parties and swept to power last year. He has shown himself unafraid of taking bold stands. In a recent Facebook post, he called for Thailand to take a bigger role in resolving the crisis in Myanmar, including by taking in Rohingya Muslim refugees arriving by boat — an unpopular view in a conservative, majority Buddhist country.
“Of course we should help them, we should give…