Actor’s attempt to rise above the political fray backfires

Thai actor Theerachai ‘Toni Rakkaen’ Wimolchaireuk sparked outrage from netizens Wednesday after posting on Instagram on July 20, detailing his gripes with the current political situation and its polarizing nature, rhetorically asking why he had to pick a side and where “democracy” and “diversity” have gone.

Toni’s original Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat whom he endorsed, said that he wasn’t “siding with anyone in politics” but “with nature” while also claiming that he wanted to see democracy thrive.

The actor then went on to question the value of capitalism in Thailand, saying that he believed no one benefits from it, and suggested that people see how diversity is essential to the survival of nature and all of us. He later singled out the pro-democracy protestors with his complaint, calling them sarm-geeb, a term used by the opposition that is seen as derogatory by most protestors.

“The sarm-geeb have to open up their hearts and accept diversity. Otherwise, they’ll just grow into selfish adults who aren’t considerate of others’ opinions. Calm down and look at the facts and information from both sides, not just your own side,” wrote Toni.

This has caused widespread criticism from many netizens, who called his words ignorant and misinformed.

“The sarm-geeb that you’re complaining about are the very ones protesting for democracy that you claimed to want badly. Why are you so afraid to pick a side?” asked one netizen in the comments section. “Have you even bothered to really look at what the protestors are calling for?”

“It’s you who’s selfish for saying that you’re neutral and refusing to pick a side. You’re just waiting to reap all the benefits from whichever side that wins without doing any of the work,” added another.

“So you want to side with nature, but where were you when nature was being harmed by all those big corporations and businesses? Or do you only love nature when you can take aesthetically pleasing photos of it and post onto Instagram?” rhetorically questioned a Twitter user.

Some netizens also found Toni’s comments on capitalism to be problematic and have called out his blindness to his own privileges.

“You should go get educated on capitalism more before speaking out on it,” commented an Instagram user. “Anyone using cameras that cost nearly a million baht and wearing designer clothing to go hiking has no right to say that capitalism benefits no one.”

Meanwhile, others, including celebrity Kanatip ‘Loukgolf’ Soonthornrak, have attempted to help educate the actor on the issues he touched on.

Toni has since released an apology statement via Instagram and has been met with mixed responses from netizens, with varying degrees of forgiveness.

“In any case, we just want you to see the problems that exist here in our country and what the sarm-geeb that you talked about are really fighting for,” wrote a user on Twitter. “If you really do want true democracy, I hope you educate yourself better and help support the fight for it.”

“Don’t just be ‘siding with nature’ — there’s no middle ground where authoritarianism exists,” concluded another.

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