PPRP to campaign in 5 provinces
EC caps candidate spending at B2m each
The pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) appears to be in full campaign mode with major gatherings planned on Sunday in five provinces including Chiang Mai, a political stronghold of the Pheu Thai Party.
The five events, which will take place simultaneously and are headed by key figures, come hot on the heels of the fundraising dinner in Bangkok on Wednesday in which the party hauled in 600 million baht.
Thanakorn Wangboonkhongchana, the PPRP's deputy spokesman, said the gatherings will be in Chiang Mai, Kamphaeng Phet, Phitsanulok, Phetchabun and Nakhon Sawan. The party will broadcast the events live via Facebook and other social media, he said.
In Chiang Mai, PPRP secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong will lead proceedings while the event in Phitsanulok will be led by Somsak Thepsuthin, who is in charge of the party's election campaign committee.
Waipot Apornrat, a former red-shirt leader, will be in charge of the Kamphaeng Phet event while former PM's Office Minister Pinyo Niroj and former Pheu Thai heavyweight Santi Prompat will head the gatherings in Nakhon Sawan and Phetchabun. According to Mr Thanakorn, up to 7,000 people are expected to attend each forum and the participants are encouraged to make policy recommendations and nominate their prime ministerial candidates. Kicking off simultaneously at 2pm, the party will also use the campaigns as an opportunity to recruit new members, he added.
The PPRP has been picking up support and the party has a strong chance of winning the general election, according to the deputy spokesman. "We're well prepared and we have the best policies to offer," he said.
Mr Thanakorn shrugged off Pheu Thai member Chalerm Ubumrung's remark that the party would not succeed in the polls and be defeated by the former ruling party.
He called on Mr Chalerm, who heads Pheu Thai's election campaign committee, to leave the PPRP alone and follow the example of Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, chairwoman of Pheu Thai's strategic committee, who woos votes with her soft-spoken approach.
In defence of the four cabinet ministers who joined the PPRP and who have so far refused to step down from the government, he said these ministers do not take advantage of their political opponents. "They are at a disadvantage because they can join party activities only at weekends," he said.
The PPRP's fundraising dinner, meanwhile, has sparked criticism from political parties and calls for the Election Commission (EC) and the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) to investigate it for transparency.
Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said the party has yet to decide how it will raise funds for its election campaign, and that it will unlikely be in the same fashion as the PPRP. He said the PPRP's fundraising efforts were well prepared, which raised suspicions that the party knew in advance when the political ban would be lifted by the regime.
He said Pheu Thai does not have sufficient time to organise a fundraising event in that fashion because the organic law governing political parties does not permit fundraising after a royal decree announcing the election takes effect. "The royal decree is expected to be published in the Royal Gazette on Jan 2 next year, so we don't have time to prepare," he said.
The PPRP claimed it raised 600 million baht from some 200 tables with its Chinese-style feast themed "United Thailand", in which each table cost three million baht. Back in 2011, the Democrat Party raised 500 million baht from a 2.5 million-baht-per-table, 200-table Chinese-style banquet. Mr Phumtham said the EC and the NACC should investigate the feast following reports that government officials and political office holders contributed to the campaign.
On Thursday, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva called on the PPRP to disclose the names of its supporters at the fundraising banquet for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the law.
According to Mr Abhisit, people who donate 100,000 baht or more to a campaign are legally required to disclose their identities. Those who paid for the tables are considered to be the party's financial contributors.
The Democrat leader said transparency is a must as the EC will limit campaign spending and the amount raised by the PPRP is very close to the spending limit planned for constituency candidates.
The EC has yet to rule on spending, but has reportedly capped candidates' expenditures at 2 million baht each, while the ceiling for party expenditure will depend on the number of candidates contesting the polls.