A Royalist mob, this week, in Nakhon Si Thammarat, surrounded a hotel where he was reported as staying and attacked a car with tinted glass which refused to lower its windows. It comes as a constitutional activist, Srisuwan Janya, has called on the Election Commission to investigate Mr Thanathorn and the Progressive Movement for functioning as a political party.
The quest by former Future Forward Party leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, to make an impact on the local election poll to be held on December 20th was openly thwarted this week by royalist protesters and calls to have his Progressive Movement examined by the Election Commission spurred by fears that it is operating as a political party despite Future Forward being disbanded by the Constitutional Court on February 21st last. The young progressive leader was forced to hide from a mob on Wednesday in Nakhon Si Thammarat as his election campaigning in the south sparked growing protests.
The activities of the former leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party are being monitored by suspicious establishment supporters and royalists throughout the country as he appears to be cranking up support for his Progressive Movement ahead of local elections on December 20th which are due to take place in some parts of Thailand.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Mr Thanathorn ran into irate and angry royalist supporters in the southern Nakhon Si Thammarat province forcing him to cancel a meeting with students in the Thung Song district.
Many in the crowd, who came out to support the Thai monarchy, called on the 42-year-old political leader, the son of an industrialist billionaire, to ‘get out’ of Thailand.
Surrounded by angry yellow-shirted royalists
At one point, on Wednesday, he appeared to be surrounded by yellow-clad royalist protesters outside his hotel in the Mueang area of the province. Police managed to keep the aggressive protesters from entering the compound of the hotel.
However, the agitated royalist crowd insisted that all cars exiting the premises lower their windows.
When a white SUV emerged from the hotel with tinted windows and refused to lower them, the crowd moved in to halt the car.
Only resolute police action allowed it to get through and go on its way.
Car owner lawyer vows to take legal action against those who obstructed her vehicle on Wednesday
The daughter of the owner of the car later came forward to say that it was driven by her mother, a lawyer. It was not carrying Mr Thanathorn as a passenger but instead was transporting five women from the venue.
The vehicle owner is now looking into taking legal action against those who participated in the frenzied obstruction.
The crowd eventually dispersed from the scene after the SUV moved through, convincing them that Mr Thanathorn had already departed.
More cancelled events in Phuket and Surat Thani
Thanathorn later cancelled events to support local election candidates in Surat Thani province because of further planned royalist demonstrations.
On Wednesday, a company in Phuket cancelled the use of a meeting room by the Progressive Movement for a gathering that was expected to include Mr Thanathorn.
The Economic Centre Development Co. is a subsidiary of a company called Phuket City Development Co or PKCD whose offices were to have hosted the event.
The firm stated that it had to be politically neutral given the current instability.
Progressive leader was removed as an MP before he could even take his seat after his new party came in third place in the March 2019 General Election
The political leader, whose party, Future Forward, was dissolved at the end of February by the Constitutional Court, appears to be gaining influence with an organisation called the Progressive Movement which he heads in association with other former Future Forward stalwarts such as the legal expert and former MP Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and former, outspoken MP Pannika Wanich.
All three were banned from participating in politics by the court order on the 21st of February but establishment sources firmly believe that they are linked to the ongoing student-led movement which has disrupted the kingdom since July 8th last.
Mr Thanathorn, himself, was removed last year as an elected MP even before he could take his place in the House of Representatives, Thailand’s lower and directly elected parliamentary chamber, over his alleged shareholding in a media company.
His political party, only formed a year earlier, went on to become Thailand’s third political force gaining 81 seats and 17.35% of the vote in its first election.
The party enjoyed widespread support from a new kind of progressive political coalition of educated, urban and younger voters.
Constitutional activist calls for Election Commission investigation into the Progressive Movement
Mr Thanathorn and his colleagues have been present at many of the rallies and protests in recent months.
They have made no secret of their support and activism to assist the student demands which include the resignation of the Thai prime minister, constitutional reform and changes to the institution of the monarchy, it’s remit and powers
This week, constitutional political activist, Srisuwan Janya, has requested the Election Commission to investigate the Progressive Movement and make a judgment on whether it was, in fact, operating as a political party.
The Progressive Movement has been identified with some election candidates nationwide who are using a distinctive logo for the movement which appears different to that of the former Future Forward Party but which unites the candidates running throughout the kingdom.
Pro-government sources say Thanathorn and the Progressive Movement are actively promoting candidates in the local elections just as a political party might do.
Political tensions in Thailand reaching family level with young people being kicked out of home
The ongoing street protests and, in particular, the hitherto unknown public discussion of the monarchy has raised political tensions in Thailand to an unprecedented level.
It has even meant a rise in the number of young adults being expelled from home over disagreements with strictly conservative parents at this time.
This has led to several organisations such as the Mirror Foundation and Childline Thailand Foundation offering advice to parents and young people alike on how to deal with the situation as constructively as possible.
The organisations are also offering support to young people who find themselves homeless and in danger of being exploited.
Thanathorn campaigned for local authority leader candidate in Nonthaburi earlier in the week
Earlier in the week, Mr Thanathorn attended a meeting in Nonthaburi province where the Progressive Movement is supporting Mr Paiboon Kitworawut as leader of the Nonthaburi Provincial Administration Organisation.
Nonthaburi is particularly important due to it being part of extended Bangkok and a growth area.
At the meeting, Mr Thanathorn said that local politics was quite different from national politics as each province had its own concerns and issues.
In Nonthaburi, the Progressive Movement is calling for better access to motorways, more employment opportunities with the goal of reducing commute times to and from Bangkok.
Thai voters may see the local polls differently to the electorate in Hong Kong in November 2019
However, many political pundits see Mr Thanathorn’s efforts as aiming at a similar outcome to the local election held in Hong Kong, late last year in November, which provided a large proportion of the electorate with a democratic voice in support of their widespread protests.
The latest development highlight the growing similarities between the two protest movements although there are key differences particularly among older pro-democracy activists and those involved in the redshirt movement who have voiced support for the students and their demands.
Over a week ago, a NIDA opinion poll in Thailand suggested that interest in the local elections was high with over 80% intending to cast their ballots.
However, over 52% did not see the local elections as significant or likely to impact them as the issues were seen as limited to local matters.
This was supported by another finding which showed that over 52% of people would not make their voting decisions based on party affiliation at a national level.
The elections will be held on December 20th next.