Something New in Thailand?

In a country plagued with 19 military coups or coup attempts in 86 years, it helps to have the army on your side. That’s why it’s remarkable that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is making a name for himself.

The latest coup came in 2014. Since then, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been in charge. At first, the chaos of civilian government in a bitterly divided country made the military takeover popular with some, but army rule, and the repression needed to sustain it, have since worn thin. After several broken promises, Prayuth now says elections will be held next year. The military junta says it will allow new political parties to form — but not to campaign.

Enter Mr. Thanathorn, a charismatic young billionaire with no history in politics. The army is still throwing dissidents and activists in jail, and Thanathorn told The Guardian this week he will “champion the reduction of the military power in Thai politics.” He knows he risks imprisonment. He says he has received death threats. His party, called “Future Forward,” has attracted enough attention that the army has pressed the country’s electoral commission to shut it down.

Thanathorn may well end up behind bars. His party might be banned. Even if there’s an election, and even if he’s allowed to run, he’ll struggle to win many votes outside the big cities, particularly in the north. But the buzz around his candidacy suggests there’s growing demand for something new in Thailand’s frozen politics.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

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