Highlights of the week

The Bangkok governor election has been set for Sunday March 3, and front-running and underdog aspirants alike have already started their door-knocking campaign to woo the city’s voters, even before registration of candidates opens.

MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra of the opposition Democrat Party is seeking a second term and is still seen by most observers as the favourite of the three frontrunners - who also include Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen of the Pheu Thai Party, who resigned as deputy national police chief in pursuit of political career, and Pol Gen Sereepisut Tamiyavej, a former national police chief who is running as an independent.

Registration of candidates has been scheduled for Jan 21-25 at the City Hall.

MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, left, and Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen (Post photos)

Pol Gen Pongsapat is not the first choice of the Pheu Thai Party, where many members wanted Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, a member of the "House No 111" disbanded Thai Rak Thai’s executive committee to contest the poll. They believed she would stand a good chance of dethroning MR Sukhumbhand bause of her strong following in in Bangkok. However, Khunying Sudarat declined the offer and instead promised support for Pol Gen Pongsapat.

But the election path could be rough for both MR Sukhumbhand and Pol Gen Pongsapat thanks to the under-the-belt political hard ball being played by the parties backing the two candidates.

The Department of Special Investigation under Tarit Pengdit is investigating the former Bangkok governor and 11 of his subordinates for alleged malfeasance in extending a contract to operate the BTS skytrain service for another 30 years. The DSI is also allegations the ex-governor and 46 Democrat MPs made improper contributions to their party in violation of the Political Party Act. The Democrats have cried foul against the DSI’s double whammy, claiming it is part of a conspiracy to discredit MR Sukhumbhand ahead of the gubernatorial election.

On the opposite side, the Democrats have plans to challenge Pol Gen Pongsapat's eligibility, citing an old case in the United States when he was a student and was caught shoplifting. The Democrats’ move is viewed by the Pheu Thai camp as a dirty political trick to discredit him.

Because of the high political stakes involved in the gubernatorial election, political tit-for-tat and mud-slinging between political arch rivals can be expected to escalate as campaigning goes full steam after the registration of candidates next week.

Both Mr Sukhumbhand and Pol Gen Pongsapat have political base support in the city. But the key factor which will determine the election result is the majority of non-partisan voters who are neither Democrats nor Pheu Thai.

On the national political front, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) proposed a blanket amnesty for all offenders involved in political conflicts between Jan 1, 2007 and Dec 31, 2011.

Tida Tawornseth (Photo yb Surapol Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)

A statement issued by UDD chair Tida Tawornseth called on the government to enact an executive decree to grant amnesty to all political offenders whether they have already been convicted and serving their jailterm or their cases are still pending in the court, including criminal cases.

The amnesty would, however, not cover the masterminds were responsible for the crackdown on protesters or who were responsible for provoking political violence.

But the UDD’s amnesty move appeared to hit a wall as the government has shrugged off the idea, fearing it would give the opposition and other critics a fresh excuse to brickbat the government.

In the restive far South on Monday, 76 surveillance cameras were destroyed during an early morning rampage blamed on militants in seven districts of Yala province. Security officials suspected it was a prelude to major attacks in the province.

All the incidents reported in Muang, Krong Penang, Yaha, Kabang, Bannang Sata, Raman and Tharnto districts took place between 3.30am and 4.50am, when members of the security forces were mostly in their barracks.

The hooded perpetrators used wooden poles wrapped with bicycle inner tubes and cloths soaked in petrol to torch cameras at 43 points across the seven districts.

Although local security forces and the public in general blamed the vandalisation on the extremists, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who is in charge of security affairs in the deep South, quickly claimed he had inside information that it was just a business conflict over contracts for the installation of surveillance cameras in the region. Not many people believed him.

Almost 300 surveillance cameras have been torched or otherwise vandalised since 2011.

On Wednesday, Teachers' Day, 700 teachers gathered in the far South and vowed not to be inntimidated into abandoning their students' education. The very next day the driver of a pickup truck taking seven young children to a kindergarten school was murdered by a motorcyle gunman, in full view of the terrified children.  

About the author

Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
Position: Former Editor