Tanat "Nat" Thanakitamnuay, an ultra-royalist who had become a well-known face at pro-monarchy demonstrations in the 2014 coup because of his appearances in his supercars, has now become a supporter of the anti-government movement that has lately been gaining momentum across the country.

Thanakitamnuay has taken to the streets again, but contrary to the last time, he is now demanding the removal of Prayuth Chan-ocha who was a leader of the coup in 2014 and was elected as prime minister in 2019 in an election heavily influenced by the military. Explaining his change of heart to Reuters, the 29-year-old said, "It's bad for your mental health to see an incompetent PM."

Nat started opposing the government partly because of his disappointment over their widely-criticised handling of the latest coronavirus outbreak, which has caused 11,841 deaths in the country till now. He is also asking for reforms to the monarchy and the removal of the lese majeste law that bars criticism of the king. Going against the king can mean 15 years in jail and has been used against most of the youth protest leaders.

While participating in the protests last month, Nat was blinded permanently in his right eye after he was hit by a teargas canister. After losing his eye, he wears a black eyepatch marked with three white dashes representing the "Hunger Games" salute adopted by pro-democracy campaigners.

"We have to do whatever we can, whatever it takes. If it will cost me another eye then so be it," he said.

Nat is a member of a Thai elite widely known as "HiSo" (High Society). He is the son of cartoon and advertising mogul Niruit Tananuchittikul. He was educated at a British private school, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle with his supercars and other luxuries, dated celebrities, and even had his own rock band. He later pursued graduation from Chulalongkorn University, and joined the family business to look after three main companies.

However, Nat insisted that "everybody suffers from the lack of democracy, regardless of how much their income changes." He said that he has now cut himself off from his family and dabbles in the stock market and cryptocurrencies.

Though he still appears at the protests in his Range Rover along with a bodyguard and a secretary, youth activists appreciate his participation and believe it would be helpful for their movement.

"It shocked us initially, but we thought that him joining us was very useful because it paved the way for others. It shows how people can reform themselves and how we are inclusive," student activist Songpon "Yajai" Sonthirak told the agency.

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida greet supporters as they leave the palace Photo: AFP / Jack TAYLOR