BANGKOK (Reuters) – An ultra royalist group in Thailand launched a new political party on Wednesday to defend King Maha Vajiralongkorn, amid unprecedented calls for reform of the monarchy by a youth-led protest movement.
The “Thai Pakdee” (Loyal Thai) party is an offshoot of a royalist group of the same name formed last August to counter street demonstrations with rallies in support of the king.
Veteran politician Warong Dechgitvigrom will lead the new party, which he said will fight political groups whose true intention was to topple the monarchy.
“Before we defend … today we declare war, we will fight to protect the monarchy,” Warong told a news conference.
Leaders of the protest movement have rejected allegations that toppling the monarchy is their goal and have repeatedly said they want to make the institution more compatible with democracy.
Warong said the prominent opposition party, Move Forward, and its associated Progressive Movement group would be his party’s political rivals, as well as the youth-led groups that he called “the three-fingers mob”, referring to the “Hunger Games” salute they use in their campaign.
In a statement Warong said his party did not have support of any particular groups or businesses and would belong to the people.
He did not name any other members, but said the election commission had been notified of its formation and executives would be selected soon.
Progressive politician Piyabutr Saengkanokkul warned, however, that the new party risked associating the monarchy with domestic politics.
“The formation of a party that advocates the protection of the monarchy, whether by good intention or for destroying others, could only bring the monarchy into the political sphere,” Piyabutr said on his official Twitter account.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty)