Suthep vows to reinvent Thai politics

Suthep vows to reinvent Thai politics

Former protest leader 'to serve people'

'Duty-bound': Suthep Thaugsuban, the former leader of the defunct People's Democrat Reform Committee.
'Duty-bound': Suthep Thaugsuban, the former leader of the defunct People's Democrat Reform Committee.

Former street protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Saturday vowed to reinvent the political system by pushing for a political party that will serve the people's needs, not its own.

It is the first time the former Democrat secretary-general, who led the 2013-14 street protests under the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), has admitted he will back a political party in the upcoming election, expected in February.

Mr Suthep had previously stated that he would back Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to resume the premiership after the election.

Still, he maintained yesterday that he would not contest the election or take up any political office but nevertheless felt obliged to pursue the ideology of the PDRC, which has now become the Muan Maha Prachachon Foundation.

"Even though I no longer want a political position, I have a duty along with other Thai people to take care of political work for the country. Please stay tuned for political innovation," he said.

According to Mr Suthep, the Muan Maha Prachachon Foundation's political reform drive will require a popular movement and the backing of a "party of the people" to achieve its goal.

However, he de-clined to name which party that might be, or even whether it currently exists.

"It's not the PDRC party, it is a party of the people that will make the ideology of the PDRC come to fruition," he said before the crowd gathered at a merit-making ceremony at Pawana Pothikhun Vocational College in the Koh Samui district of Surat Thani.

Among the participants were former PDRC core members such as Thaworn Senneam, Witthaya Kaewparadai, and Mr Suthep's younger brother Thani Thaugsuban, who earlier said he had left the Democrat Party to apply for registration with the foundation.

Mr Thani previously announced he would establish a new party, to be named the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Party.

But, as of now, he has yet to register any political entity with the Election Commission (EC).

The former Democrat heavyweight said the country had reached a crossroads and reforms were necessary to prevent the vicious political circle resuming, and urged people to put the interests of the country before party loyalties.

A Democrat source said the problem for Mr Suthep was that most former PDRC members have agreed to remain allied with the Democrats.

In a related development, former senator Paiboon Nititawan was selected as the leader of Prachachon Patiroob (Reform People Party) at an assembly which also saw Mano Laohavanich selected as secretary-general.

Mr Paiboon said his stance remained unchanged, which was to support Gen Prayut to come back as the prime minister after the general election. According to Mr Paiboon, the party would not submit prime minister candidates to the EC.

"My intention is to support Gen Prayut as a khon klang [neutral] prime minister," he said, apparently avoiding the term "non-elected outside prime minister" which refers to a nominee not on the list of political parties and who is voted in by a majority in both the House and Senate.

He insisted he had no intention of triggering a political crisis or forming a national government and noted that he would not approach Gen Prayut to step forward for the role.

Mr Paiboon said the party's platform would focus on decentralisation of power through the setting up of people's councils in the provinces with reforms of the Buddhist clergy as one of the key election campaign pledges.

"We are not seeking popularity for the party. But it's what the people want," he said.

Bhumjaithai Party deputy secretary-general Supachai Jaisamut said yesterday the membership confirmation process had gone smoothly over the past week, with key members showing their loyalty.

These included former MP for Phichit Siriwat Kachornprasart and Suchart Tancharoen, leader of the Ban Rim Nam group, who was recently linked to rumours that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak had been approached by a group of veteran politicians to join talks about forming a new political party.

Meanwhile, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, founder of Future Forward Party, yesterday visited Trang province, the hometown and stronghold of former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, and was welcomed by Raleuk Leekpai, the former PM's brother.

"Ever since I officially announced I would become a politician, I have yet to make visits outside of the capital. This is the first. My intention is to listen to people and understand local problems first-hand," Mr Thanathorn said.

"The defining policy of the Future Forward Party, which I have come to share with the people of Trang, is our initiative to decentralise power and distribute it to the local authorities. I have encountered great enthusiasm and creativity in the local municipalities. They are entitled to a future they build themselves."

Mr Thanathorn denied that this was a political move to tap into Mr Chuan's home province. "We intended to make a visit to a province outside of Bangkok, and Trang was the most equipped and prepared for this. It coincided with our schedule and that is why this meeting happened," he said.

Mr Thanathorn told the press that Trang's economic strength, compared to other southern provinces, is middling, especially compared to the financial powerhouse of Phuket.

"Trang's largest industry is agriculture. However, the province's tourism industry is showing steady and strong growth, so it would be interesting to see how the state and the local industry can collaborate," Mr Thanathorn added.

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