No escaping this scandal
The leader of the Democrat Party Jurin Laksanawisit has finally apologised for the high-profile sex scandal involving the party's ex-deputy Prinn Panitchpakdi.
Mr Jurin's apologies, given during a press conference on April 19, come a week or so after the first alleged victim pointed the finger at Mr Prinn who is known as a close aid to the party leader.
Apart from the apology, Mr Jurin resigned from government committees on gender equality and women's policies following complaints by women's groups. He has refused to step down as party leader in response to what has occurred, saying he needs to remain to show his responsibility for the matter.
While Mr Jurin has formed a panel to look into the allegations, his response is a little too late, if not disproportionate, given the impact of the scandal.
As of yesterday, 14 women have filed complaints against Mr Prinn for alleged misconduct, dating back to 2007. Some have accused him of sexual harassment, others said they were raped. Most told police they met him for business reasons but ended up being lured to his residence.
According to police reports, some alleged they were drugged before being raped. One of the women who identified herself as a rape victim is Hathairat Thanakitamnuay, wife of a political activist who had left the Democrat Party. The latest alleged victim is an 18-year-old woman whose accusations have placed not only Mr Prinn but the party in trouble.
Mr Prinn, who was director of the party's Bangkok governor election centre, has resigned from all positions to fight the accusations, with staunch claims that the case is politically motivated. He has been released on 500,000 baht bail.
The scandal is a crucial test of Mr Jurin's leadership. The veteran politician rose to the party's top position, succeeding Abhisit Vejjajiva, in 2019 in what is regarded as a transition period for the party which suffered heavy losses in the general election that took place that same year.
Its failure to keep election campaign promises of not joining hands with military-leaning parties triggered an exit for several key figures, among them Korn Chatikavanij, and Parit Wacharasindhu.
Mr Jurin has conceded that he recruited Mr Prinn as a party exec while claiming he had no idea about issues related to the recent allegations.
As the scandal remains the talk of the town, the party faces another moral crisis as an outraged party member inadvertently revealed a series of sexual misconducts ranging from casual affairs to adultery conducted by quite a few Democrat politicians.
Niphon Bunyamanee, deputy party leader and also deputy interior minister, has vowed action not against those implicated in such misconduct, but rather against the accidental informant. Ms Niphon would be best to instead investigate such claims and act upon them if they prove valid, or such assertions can only inflict further damage to the party.
There are no words from Mr Jurin about this recent development, while some young party members have said they are disheartened by what is going on in the organisation.
But such revelations show the need for the Democrat Party to clean up its act if it wants to survive politically.
By coincidence, the Democrat Party is having its annual general meeting this Saturday. It's likely such scandals will dominate the event during which Mr Jurin might be forced not only to review his past performance but to make some form of atonement.
Bangkok Post editorial column
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