Abhisit's nephew 'Itim' first Thai to lead top Oxford society

Abhisit's nephew 'Itim' first Thai to lead top Oxford society

THAILAND - Arit Wacharasindhu, the 21-year-old nephew of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, is in the spotlight again with the news that he has become the first Thai to be voted president of the Oxford Union, the largest student society at Oxford University.

"The Oxford Union was founded in 1823 as a small debating society that was based on the principle of free speech. But since then it has grown to become a venue for students of Oxford to have the chance to debate alongside world leaders in every professional field, politics, journalism, acting. And it provides an arena where students can debate alongside and against world leaders on an equal setting," he said.

Famous speakers invited to the union's events include the Dalai Lama; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Mother Teresa; the former US presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; and UK ex-prime ministers; Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher.

Among speakers during Parit's presidential term were Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai. Parit said he was impressed with the modesty of Jack Gleeson, who gained fame from the role of King Joffrey in the "Game of Thrones" television series.

Topics of discussion

The topics of discussion varied from the necessity of positive discrimination to whether socialism works. Debates about religion draw a lot of attention, he said.

"I think it's a unique experience for a 20-year-old student like me to have the opportunity to meet and interview the guest speakers. It's also an opportunity for me to manage an organisation that's so rich in history and involves so many people working for it. And it is a society that is completely student-run. So in that sense it gives me a very unique experience. I am very grateful for it," he said, adding he was proud to have been the first Thai voted into the position, which is normally dominated by British students.

Parit, known by his nickname, "Itim", returned to Thailand during the school break then the news of his position, which he had already completed, spread on social media.

Parit was voted into the position in March last year and took up the presidential post in the Winter term from June to December.

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