Ex-governor scoffs at poll

MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the Democrat Party's candidate for Bangkok governor, has shrugged off an Abac poll projecting him to finish behind the Pheu Thai Party's Pongsapat Pongcharoen.

  • Published: 25/01/2013 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

He told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview Thursday that the race is still in its early stages and the vote could eventually swing in his favour.

He said he is looking to take 1 million votes during the March 3 election.

"I believe when the voters go to the polls on election day ... they will vote for the candidate who can really work for them and who can protect their interests," he said.

Bangkok has more than 4.33 million eligible voters, and about 55% of them are likely to turn out for the election, he said. Many of the voters are still undecided, he said.

The Democrats and Pheu Thai each have a support base of at least 450,000 voters, he said. Expanding that support will take a lot of work.

Pol Gen Pongsapat's campaign slogan of "working with the government seamlessly" would not convince enough voters, MR Sukhumbhand said.

Under that kind of policy, a Bangkok governor would be under the control of the central government, he said.

A candidate who relied too much on the central government could overlook the specific needs of locals, he said. "If we want a 'seamless' governor, why waste money holding an election?"

If seamless cooperation between the two governments is what people want, then the governor of Bangkok should be appointed, he said. "If [the government] is displeased, they can dismiss him and find a new one for the sake of seamlessness."

He said that when he was Bangkok governor he did not always work seamlessly with the government, even when it was led by his own party.

The government at the time cut City Hall's budget by 3 billion baht but he still managed to run the city, he said, adding that he boosted the city's coffers by 5 billion baht a year via house and building tax collections and with revenue from skytrain extensions.

MR Sukhumbhand said that during his four years as governor, he worked amid three years of political crises that rocked the capital. A lot of manpower and capital was invested in maintaining security and safety, he said.

"No other Bangkok governors faced those problems for three consecutive years," he said.

Despite Bangkok's political crisis, he said he still kept a promise to create 5,022 rai of green space in the city.

He promised to create another 5,000 rai if he is re-elected. He said he helped the capital's estimated 700,000 elderly by building hospitals and responding to their particular needs.

MR Sukhumbhand pitched a policy to encourage residents to take better care of themselves.

Under the policy, nine hospitals under the supervision of City Hall and other public health service centres in the capital would provide free medical checkups. An annual budget of 300 million baht will be sought from the city council for the scheme, he said.

He said if more people take better care of their health before they become sick, less money could be spent building hospitals and hiring medical staff.

He said he has a plan to solve traffic congestion by building a monorail to cover 8km from Vacharapol Road to Lat Phrao in the first phase, later extending to Klong Toey and Rama IX Road.

The policy was earlier initiated under the Transport Ministry, but it was shelved, he said. The monorail project would begin immediately if he is re-elected, he said. MR Sukhumbhand also promised to build extra traffic tunnels underneath railway lines. Such a tunnel has already been completed at Charan Sanitwong Road.

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Writer: Nattaya Chetchotiros
Position: Reporter

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