BANGKOK — Hardline royalists gathered on Monday to accuse opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongraungkit of engineering the movement to call for reforms of the monarchy.
The group, calling itself the Center for People Protecting the Monarchy, staged their rally in front of the headquarters of Thai Summit, a company owned by Thanathorn’s family. The demonstrators urge Thanathorn to leave Thailand for allegedly having hostile attitudes towards the Royal Family.
“If Mr. Thanathorn continues to incite division, is it not appropriate that we will come out again?” protest organizer Chakrapong Klinkaew said. “Do the majority really support monarchy reform as claimed?”
He added, “If you think there’s nothing good about Thailand, we shall unite to force you out of Thailand.”
Chakrapong also pledged to gather along Ratchadamnoen Avenue on Wednesday to welcome His Majesty the King’s royal motorcade – raising concerns of a possible clash between them and anti-government protesters set to attend a rally at the avenue on the same day.
Thanathorn led the Future Forward Party, the second largest opposition party in parliament, until its dissolution earlier this year. He was not available to comment on the allegations as of publication time, but the billionaire-turned-politician has repeatedly denied the accusations that he was disloyal to the monarchy.
A woman who only introduced herself as ‘Tiew New York’, then addressed the crowd in English.
“We’re here to show that there are some groups who want to divide our country,” Tiew said. “If you want to reform [the monarchy]. Why don’t you reform yourself first?”
She then switched to Thai and noted that Thanathorn’s ancestors came from China. “You people had never sacrificed your flesh and blood for the sovereignty of Thailand.”
Chakrapong also read out a statement calling Thanathorn “ungrateful to the king’s benevolence.”
“He declared himself clearly that he supports monarchy reform,” Chakrapong said, referring to Thanathorn’s remark at a symposium at Chulalongkorn University last week. “If you like western-style democracy, go and live there.”
Although Thanathorn has spoken several times in support of the need to reform the monarchy – in a 2018 interview with Khaosod English, he said the institution needs to keep evolving – he was not part of the groups spearheading the recent campaigns that raise the reform issue.
Those groups are led by a network of activists, some of them students, who do not have any formal link to political parties in the Parliament.