Chaithawat elected Move Forward leader

Chaithawat elected Move Forward leader

Party veteran says he's willing to step aside if court clears predecessor Pita to return as an MP

New leader Chaithawat Tulathon addresses the Move Forward Party general assembly on Saturday. (Photo: Move Forward Party)
New leader Chaithawat Tulathon addresses the Move Forward Party general assembly on Saturday. (Photo: Move Forward Party)

The Move Forward Party has elected Chaithawat Tulathon as its new leader to succeed Pita Limjaroenrat, who stepped down earlier this month because of continuing uncertainty about his status as an MP.

However, Mr Chaithawat said the change could be temporary and was being made only because legal issues prevented Mr Pita from performing his role as the opposition leader.

“I and the new members of the executive committee are ready to step down if Mr Pita can return to perform his MP duty,” he said at the party’s general assembly on Saturday.

Mr Chaithawat, the party’s secretary-general, received 330 votes in favour, with 5 opposed and 3 abstentions in a secret ballot using electronic voting. He was the only candidate nominated.

Songkhla-born Mr Chaithawat, 45, holds a degree in environmental engineering from Chulalongkorn University. While at university he joined the Student Federation of Thailand along with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a friend and classmate from their days at Triam Udom Suksa school.

Future Forward veteran

Mr Thanathorn and Mr Chaithawat were among the core founders of the reform-minded Future Forward Party. The party performed surprisingly well in the 2019 election but was dissolved a year later after the Constitutional Court ruled that a loan from Mr Thanathorn to the party violated electoral laws.

Its successor, Move Forward, won the most seats in the May 14 general election with Mr Pita at the helm. But the party was unable to form a coalition government because of entrenched opposition to its policy to reform Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the royal defamation law. It has since become the main party in the opposition bloc.

Mr Pita resigned as leader on Sept 15, saying he could not take up the position of opposition leader due to his suspension. He said the country urgently needed to have an official opposition to properly monitor the government, and that required the party to have a leader who is a sitting MP.

The Constitutional Court on July 19 suspended Mr Pita as an MP pending a ruling on whether he broke election rules. At issue is whether he ran for office while knowing he might be disqualified for holding shares in a media company — the long-defunct broadcaster iTV.

Mr Pita has argued the 42,000 shares were part of his late father’s estate, which he managed as executor. He said they had since been transferred to relatives.

Move Forward, meanwhile, still faces the prospect of dissolution as the charter court is considering whether its stand on Section 112 violates the Constitution. (Story continues below)

Former leader Pita Limjaroenrat congratulates successor Chaithawat Tulathon on Saturday. Mr Pita has been named chairman of a new three-member advisory body. (Photo: Move Forward Party)

New party executive

Also at Saturday’s general meeting, the party elected a new executive with Apichart Sirisunthon named secretary-general to succeed Mr Chaithawat.

Mr Pita was named chairman of a new three-member advisory group, joined by Weerayuth Kanchuchat, a member of the party’s economic team, and Detcharat Sukkamnerd, director of the Think Forward Center.

Phicharn Chaowapattanawong, Nattawut Buaprathum, Supisan Phakdeenarunat and Sirikanya Tansakul were named deputy party leaders and Parit Watcharasindhu — a nephew of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva — was named party spokesman.

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