Local voters deserve better
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Local voters deserve better

The latest Provincial Administrative Organisation chairman election in Pathum Thani was not just another local poll. In fact, it was a barometer of whether the Pheu Thai Party -- which has recently seen its popularity diminish -- is still a force to reckon with in Thai politics.

That may explain why the Shinawatra family threw its full support behind the party's candidate Charn Watcharong, who was PAO chairman there several years ago.

A few days before the election, Thaksin Shinawatra, a paroled convict, visited the province, calling on the red shirts to rally behind the party. With the full endorsement of the party and Thaksin, Mr Charn won, albeit with a razor-thin majority. Yet, the party faced an unexpected backlash when the Council of State (CoS), a day after the victory, issued a statement saying that Mr Charn should be suspended after facing corruption charges in the procurement of flood relief items when he served as chair of the Pak Kret PAO 12 years ago.

This charge is not recent. Indeed, the National Anti-Corruption Commission forwarded the case to the Region 1 Criminal Court more than a decade ago.

It is a blow to Mr Charn and voters in the constituency that the Region 1 Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct will hold a hearing on the matter later this month. This means that the winning candidate has to devote time to standing trial, and he may even be removed from duty if the court finds him to be in the wrong.

Pakorn Nilprapunt, secretary general of the CoS, warned that Mr Charn's return to Pathum Thani as PAO chair could affect his legal process.

In addition, the State Audit Office found that Mr Charn had purchased overpriced exercise machines when he served as the Pak Kret PAO chair in 2012. The NACC is looking into this case.

That raises the question: How much does the Pheu Thai Party know about its candidate's legal charges?

The Pheu Thai Party has shown no show signs of being perturbed by the issue. Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai insists that Mr Charn is fit to serve and his future must only be decided by the court, not the CoS.

Sorawong Thienthong, the Pheu Thai Party secretary-general in charge of screening party candidates, says the party has vetted Mr Charn and finds nothing wrong with his qualifications. "What matters the most is that our candidates can serve voters," he said.

Such an approach is worrying. After all, the election is more than just about winning; it is about offering candidates who can deliver effective public service.

After all, every election costs taxpayer money to run. As such, voters deserve candidates with clean records and those who can devote their time and energy to public service.

Make no mistake, Mr Charn remains innocent until he is proven otherwise in court and his qualifications do not violate Election Commission rules. Yet, his legal problems go against the image of good governance. Local administrative bodies are infested with corruption, and voters need politicians who can fight bad behaviour.

This year, thousands of elected local administrators will complete their terms, and major parties will send their candidates to contest the vacant seats.

Major parties, especially Pheu Thai, will nominate their candidates and spend their resources to win.

Dependable political parties must show they have high standards and sound judgement by endorsing candidates who are capable, clean and have integrity.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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