Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, former leader of the now-defunct Future Forward Party, may no longer be an MP. But that certainly has not stopped him from rattling the establishment.
Thanathorn did something unprecedented on Thursday as an advisor of the House committee scrutinizing the 2021 budget bill.
He questioned the justification for an increase in the budget for agencies under the Royal Office – the organization directly under His Majesty the King. Thanathorn described the increase as “alarming” given the current economic situation and wanted an answer.
The fiery businessman-turned-politician was disqualified as an MP in November last year after the Constitutional Court found him guilty of violating the election law for having shares in a media company when applying to run in the last general elections. And in February this year, he saw his Future Forward Party dissolved by the Constitutional Court which also banned him along with the party’s other executives from politics for 10 years.
However, despite the political setbacks, Thanathorn continues to make his voice heard in the House chamber as an advisor of the House budget committee, representing the opposition Move Forward Party – the reincarnation of the Future Forward Party.
Normally, budgets for royal agencies are approved with little or no deliberation out of respect for the monarchy. But not this time — with Thanathorn’s presence in the budget committee.
Thanathorn is known for his strong stand on the monarchy which he believes should be more accountable.
Thanathorn noted in his Facebook post on Thursday that normally, top executives of government agencies would be required to be present to defend their budget before the House committee. But traditionally, no administrators of the Royal Office have ever appeared before the committee. And in line with past practice, the Royal Office was on Thursday represented by officials of the Budget Bureau.
Thanathorn said the budget allocated for the Royal Office for 2021 is 8.9 billion baht which he noted would be a significant jump of 16.8 per cent from the 7.6 billion baht for this year.
He described the increase as “alarming”, considering the fact that the overall national budget for 2021 represents an increase of only 3.1 per cent. He noted that the Budget Bureau officials spent only two minutes presenting the budget and without giving any details.
And looking back over the years, the outspoken politician said budgets for the Royal Office have been increasing at startling rates, outstripping those of inflation and economic growth.
Thanathorn said he questioned the officials of the Budget Bureau whether such increases would be appropriate. And whether they would in any way diminish the honour of the monarchy.
“As the people are still suffering from economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic, such a sharp increase in the budget for the Royal Office would only have a negative impact on the honour of the monarchy,” he said.
Thanathorn said he recommended that an increase in budget for the Royal Office be limited to 3.1 per cent – the same increase rate for the overall national budget.
“My intention is to help make the royal institution to continue to be held in high esteem by the people,” he explained.
He said by agreeing to cut down the budget for the Royal Office, the royal institution would be seen as sharing the suffering of the people – and that would further enhance the honour of the monarchy.
Among the major agencies within the Royal Office are Office of His Majesty’s Privy Council, Bureau of the Royal Household and Royal Security.
However, despite his plea, Thanathorn said the House committee endorsed the budget for the Royal Office without any changes.