Democrats' rush to impress starting to bear fruit

Democrats' rush to impress starting to bear fruit

We have witnessed a new phenomenon in post-coup politics as politicians from both government and opposition camps jump-start their work to impress those who voted for them. This rush might stem from the widely held belief that the Prayut Chan-o-cha cabinet, with its slim majority, will not survive the political turbulence for long and a snap election might be around the corner.

Democrat politicians, in particular, appear more than eager to make a clean break from the party's old image of being good at talking the talk but less so at walking the walk after the party lost its stronghold in the South in the March 24 polls.

Those at the agriculture and commerce ministries have made it a top priority to raise farm produce prices, with the launch of a price-guarantee scheme for cash crops like oil palm, rice and rubber, in a bid to ease farmers' hardships. Such swift action has rarely been a hallmark of the party.

In the spotlight is Chuti Krairiksh, the social development and human security minister, who has embarked on his own race against time to win the hearts and minds of the people, especially a number of vulnerable groups across the country.

It could be said that it is a new trend for a ministry with a huge budget but typically low profile to be drawing attention from politicians. He appears to be eager to raise the bar for a ministry that has in the past faced corruption and embezzlement scandals in some provinces.

Mr Chuti has been praised for mingling with officials at all levels and boosting their morale. His down-to-earth attitude has been cited as the reason his initial efforts appear to have earned him the trust of the working with him and under him.

The minister has formed a task force which is on duty around the clock so that officials based in the provinces can video conference with Bangkok any time there is an emergency. The ministry's 1300 hotline enables people to report problems and receive immediate relief should disaster strike.

This level of proactivity is needed in a country facing a plethora of social problems. Some long-term issues like our ageing society and laws concerning LGBT issues, as well as people with disabilities, require a strategic approach from those power to bring about meaningful, lasting solutions.

The minister, whose 226 million baht of assets puts him among to top 10 richest ministers in the Prayut Chan-o-cha cabinet, is making good use of his social connections to advance jit arsa volunteerism in various areas. This is a scheme in which academics, social personalities and local leaders join hands with the goal of promoting human development.

Particularly noteworthy are art activities which include contests for children and workshops for art teachers in the restive southern provinces. Renowned artist Thavorn Ko-udomvit has lent a hand at a series of workshops which aim to bring art to the people as part of the healing process -- along with timely rehabilitation for the people affected in ongoing violence -- in the troubled region.

Needless to say, the minister's dedication could help alter the public view of his party; while his work, if a success, should leave a legacy, as well as improve the standing of a ministry that has all too often been overlooked.

Nauvarat Suksamran is assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.

Nauvarat Suksamran

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