Pheu Thai divided over city race pick
Sudarat considered a compatible sparring partner for Sukhumbhand - Deputy police chief describes himself as a possible 'false target' of media speculation - Former MRTA head hopes to bring the same success to his new job as state railway governor
The battle has begun for the city governor race in Bangkok next year but it is being waged inside the ruling Pheu Thai Party.
Sudarat: Well positioned to woo voters
Some quarters of the party do not see eye to eye with core members who are intent on nominating deputy national police chief Pongsapat Pongcharoen as the party's choice of governor candidate.
The party members, many of whom have close ties to Bangkok MPs, are pressing for answers as to why Pheu Thai does not wish to field Sudarat Keyuraphan as candidate in the race, set for Feb 17 next year.
Khunying Sudarat commands hefty respect from a faction of mostly Bangkok MPs in Pheu Thai.
The Pheu Thai's core figures have tried to explain that Khunying Sudarat does not make the cut because she has been defeated in a governor election before.
Twelve years ago she lost to the late Samak Sundaravej by half a million votes in the Bangkok governor contest. Samak won the seat with more than 1 million votes and he later went on to become prime minister.
Pheu Thai insiders said that by contrast, Pol Gen Pongsapat, who also serves as secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, is a media darling who is only slightly less popular in opinion surveys than incumbent governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra from the rival Democrat Party.
But the explanation from the Pheu Thai top ranks has done nothing to quell the displeasure from Khunying Sudarat's supporters.
The supporters openly expressed their unease last month about Pol Gen Pongsapat's speculated rise as the party's governor candidate.
Before the opposition's launch of the censure debate against the prime minister and the cabinet, Pheu Thai executives convened a meeting with the party's Bangkok MPs, city councillors and district councillors.
The MPs and councillors were told to prepare to mount a campaign in support of Pol Gen Pongsapat, who was being slated to stand as Pheu Thai's Bangkok governor candidate.
The MPs were being paid 100,000 baht each, the city councillors 50,000 baht and district councillors 10,000 baht in return for their backing.
The dissident members, however, say they want to rally behind Khunying Sudarat, who in their view has a shot at being elected governor.
Some ruling party executives have acknowledged a wide discrepancy in popularity between Pheu Thai and the Democrats in Bangkok.
The figures are rather telling: Pheu Thai currently has 10 MPs against the Democrats' 25; 14 city councillors against the Democrats' 46; and 39 district councillors against the Democrats' 210.
But despite the noted electoral disadvantage, the Pheu Thai Party could stand a healthy chance of competing with the Democrats for City Hall's top seat if the party sent Khunying Sudarat into the race, provided the Democrats endorse MR Sukhumbhand's bid to seek re-election, her supporters say.
The Pheu Thai source said Khunying Sudarat and MR Sukhumbhand would make for compatible sparring partners.
The source added Khunying Sudarat was well positioned to woo Bangkok voters with her credentials as a former minister of various ministries.
Her supporters are pulling out all the stops to have Khunying Sudarat named on Pheu Thai's governor candidate ticket.
Pongsapat likely to get the nod
Deputy police chief Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen could well be the choice for the Pheu Thai Party to field in February's Bangkok governor election.
Although the police general has dismissed growing speculation that he would be nominated as candidate, a source in the ruling party has confirmed he is likely to get the nod.
Pongsapat: Unblemished political image
Pol Gen Pongsapat earlier remarked his name may have been floated to divert public attention away from the person who would finally be picked to compete in the city poll. He has described himself as a possible ''false target'' of media speculation.
However, a Pheu Thai source maintained Pol Gen Pongsapat is the party's indisputable choice to square off with the rival Democrat Party.
Even some supporters of Sudarat Keyuraphan, pushed by close associates and some members as an alternative candidate, have conceded Pol Gen Pongsapat could easily claim the party's endorsement.
One key person in the potential endorsement of Pol Gen Pongsapat is believed to be Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
If Ms Yingluck, who does well in many popularity surveys, backs Pol Gen Pongsapat, the Democrats could also feel the pressure.
Both Ms Yingluck and Pol Gen Pongsapat, who is also the secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, have unblemished political images.
The image factor and the desire of some Bangkok voters for a ''face'' governor could give incumbent Sukhumbhand Paribatra a run for his money, should he stand again.
Pol Gen Pongsapat has established close contacts with many Bangkok communities through his police work and, recently, his anti-drugs campaigns.
He has reached into communities where authorities have little access and his name and face pop up regularly in the media.
Pol Gen Pongsapat feels that if he should ever become governor, his drug suppression policies in Bangkok would stand a greater chance of success.
The governor's office and the Pheu Thai-led government will be on the same page in executing drug programmes.
Pheu Thai and Pol Gen Pongsapat agree that policy execution would be smoother if the government and City Hall were led by the same party.
But if voter behaviour is anything to go by, the vision of one party controlling both the government and City Hall is still some way off.
Many Bangkok voters tend to vote for a party other than the one running the government for the governor's job.
They have not appeared to favour a single party dominating both national politics and City Hall, which may hinder Pol Gen Pongsapat's chances, should he get the nod.
Prapas aims to keep SRT on track
Managing a state enterprise that is rich in assets yet saddled with heavy debt such as the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is no simple matter, as Prapas Jongsanguan is finding out.
Observers figured Mr Prapas's world must have turned upside down when he started as SRT governor some weeks ago.
He spent years steering the ultra-modern Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA) as its governor, so the contrast must be dramatic.
Prapas: Ability put to the test
Some management experts say the industrial relations climate in the SRT is fractious, which could affect the governor's ability to do his job.
Mr Prapas had to negotiate many obstacles before he could land the post.
Before his SRT governorship was approved, he faced stiff resistance from agency insiders and an undercurrent whipped up by certain members of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, according to a source familiar with the issue.
The opposition Democrat Party also levelled serious allegations against him.
Nakhon Machim, a Democrat MP for Phitsanulok, petitioned the Office of the Ombudsman, saying Mr Prapas was not qualified to be the SRT chief because he served as an assistant to former transport minister Charupong Ruangsuwan at the time the minister appointed him as the SRT governor.
The post of assistant to the transport minister is considered a political appointment, which would have barred Mr Prapas from selection as the SRT governor, Mr Nakhon said.
He said Mr Prapas had never run an organisation with a minimum profit of 5 billion baht a year, which was another requirement of the job.
Mr Prapas explained he had quit as an assistant to the transport minister on June 21 and then applied for the recruitment process as SRT chief on June 25. He insisted he had also administered profits of more than 5 billion baht a year while at the MRTA.
The process to select the SRT head took four arduous months before Mr Prapas was finally given an employment contract which formalised his governorship, at which point a cabinet reshuffle was unveiled.
Mr Prapas is the first SRT non-staff member to have risen to the top of the country's oldest state enterprise.
Mr Prapas, who has a legal background, was able to familiarise himself with the the MRTA in a relatively short time, and hopes to bring the same success to his new job.
The SRT is known for its conservative mindset and slow adaptability to changes, which might still cause the new governor problems.
Efforts to introduce new projects at the SRT that challenge the status quo have met with resistance.
A case in point is the Transport Ministry's failure to register a subsidiary company and scout talent to manage the Airport Rail Link.
The project made little headway in the face of opposition by the SRT unions. In the end, SRT insiders were appointed to handle the company.
Mr Prapas is noted for his decisiveness and resolve and now his ability will be put to the test in leading an organisation of more than 10,000 staff who are divided from the top executives down to staff on the ground.
He will be watched closely to see how he pacifies a potential new demand from the SRT unions, that the SRT wholly manages the Red Line electric train system once the project is complete.
Mr Prapas's future career will be tied to that of the SRT.
Whether he can turn the financially ailing agency around depends on the level of cooperation that he will receive from within the SRT.