Arnond, the royalist scholar and loyal defender of Thailand’s monarchy
Assistant Professor Arnond Sakworawich first came under the spotlight last November, when he sparred on TV with firebrand protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul over royal assets.
Viewers were glued to the “Frank Questions by Jomquan” talk show, as the academic and the key figure of the Khana Ratsadon (People’s Party) movement debated the highly complicated issue of the Crown Property Act.
The show was broadcast soon after youth-led protesters raised the ante by targeting the King’s finances in a rally on November 25. The protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Siam Commercial Bank, of which the King is a major shareholder, to demand changes to the law governing royal assets and those under the Crown Property Bureau.
Under the current Crown Property Act, both the King’s personal assets and the crown’s wealth are combined under the jurisdiction of the Crown Property Bureau.
The battle between Arnond, a doctorate holder from the National Institute Development Administration (NIDA), and Panusaya, a young student from Thammasat University’s Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, was a mismatch – like a flyweight taking on a heavyweight boxer.
The lecturer confronted the student with information in defence of the monarchy. He said the King’s assets belong to His Majesty alone, not to the government or the people.
While Arnond’s supporters applauded him for presenting “accurate” information to which Panusaya sometimes had no answer, questions raised by his opponents sparked a hot public debate on social media.
Known for his royalist views, Arnond announced later that as a loyal subject, it was his duty to protect the monarchy.
“I did not participate in any TV news shows for a week [after the televised debate], because I want everything to come to an end. I have no desire to become famous or be under the spotlight,” he posted on Facebook 10 days after the show.
The staunch royalist is active on social media, frequently posting opinions in support of the monarchy and comments countering the anti-establishment movement.
In a column published last July on Manager Online, he said His Majesty worked hard in his own, unique way but was always met by criticism.
He said the King had officials stationed outside the Chiang Rai’s Tham Luang cave where a group of boys were trapped in 2018, recording video clips, taking photographs and keeping him updated regularly via the Line app.
In June 2018, 12 boys and their football coach ended up trapped inside the deep cave complex in the northern province. Led by an international team of experts, the rescue operation took 17 days and claimed the life of a Thai Navy diver.
With a PhD in psychometrics and quantitative psychology from New York’s Fordham University under his belt, Arnond now delivers lectures on business analytics and intelligence at the NIDA School of Applied Statistics.
In January 2018, Arnond made the headlines when he quit as director of NIDA’s polling agency a mere two weeks after joining.
He stepped down after learning that NIDA’s management had halted the release of results from a NIDA poll on Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan’s controversial collection of luxury watches. The respondents were asked if they believed Prawit had borrowed the luxury watches from a friend, as he claimed.
“I cherish academic freedom and ethical values. Without these, there is no reason for me to stay on as a [NIDA] director who is duty-bound to honestly and boldly reflect people’s opinions,” Arnond wrote on Facebook before quitting.
The lecturer has also admitted that he supported the last coup and the junta-led government, but always said he would stand up against wrongdoing and injustice.
“I will never betray the people and principles of righteousness,” he said.
In 2014, Arnond joined the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, which was then leading protests against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. Subsequent disturbances culminated in a military coup in May 2014, led by then-Army chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The general has been the prime minister ever since.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk