No shortage of talent in new party

No shortage of talent in new party

New-blood PPRP candidates bring variety of skills to election contest

Palang Pracharath Party's MP hopefuls promise to make a difference to the political scene. From left: Pacharin Sumsiripong, Sansana Suriyayothin and Pada Vorakanon.  (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
Palang Pracharath Party's MP hopefuls promise to make a difference to the political scene. From left: Pacharin Sumsiripong, Sansana Suriyayothin and Pada Vorakanon.  (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

The Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), being a new kid on the political block, has capitalised on the new faces it has brought into its fold. Three young PPRP MP candidates discuss their election prospects and agree that being new is not always a liability in politics as they are accessible and take a hands-on approach to addressing issues affecting voters.

Pacharin Sumsiripong

Pacharin Sumsiripong may be a familiar face to some, thanks to her job as a special lecturer in criminology and justice administration at the Rangsit University and her foray into beauty pageants, in which she won the title of "Miss Intelligent" in the 2009 Miss Thailand contest.

Ten years on, Ms Pacharin, 31, is embarking on another contest in which she will be taking on one of the country's biggest political hitters, Anudit Nakhonthap, of the Pheu Thai Party.

Mr Anudit, the former ICT minister, is a close aide to Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, who heads Pheu Thai's strategy committee and is tipped to be a party candidate for the prime ministerial post.

The newcomer has been recruited by government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who is also a member of the PPRP, to run for a House seat in Bangkok's Sai Mai district under the party's banner.

"From his talks, I realised that the PPRP and I have a shared ideology. I decided to join the party and have never regretted it, even if I have to compete with a well-known politician," she told Bangkok Post.

With interest in volunteer work, she joined the 2009 Miss Thailand beauty contest because it gave her an opportunity to promote her cause -- the development of youth and steering them away from drugs. She says she thought the boost the pageant would give her profile would be a powerful tool to drive her agenda forward.

After graduating from Rangsit University in accountancy, Ms Pacharin pursued a master of science in criminal justice leadership and management from Sam Houston State University in the United States and earned a doctorate in the same field from Mahidol University.

As the years have passed Ms Pacharin's interest expanded into agricultural development and reform, and how the can provide security and sustainability for Thais.

Even though the March 24 election is her first political race, Ms Pacharin is not entirely new to politics. She has a solid background as an adviser to the legislature thanks to her uncle, Paiboon Sumsiripong, who is a former senator for Pathum Thani.

The 31-year-old served as an adviser to several Senate and House standing committees. At one time she served as secretary to the Bangkok City Council's sub-committee on economics, monetary, finance and budget monitoring.

"I don't feel the pressure as a newcomer. I believe the people will give me a chance. I heard people complain a lot about political divisions and how the problems remain unsolved. They want changes," she said.

Sansana Suriyayothin

Another young blood, Sansana Suriyayothin, grabbed his chance the moment the pro-regime PPRP approached him to contest the election on the Thon Buri side of Bangkok. Mr Sansana, 41, was chosen to contest in Constituency 22, which consists of Bangkok Yai and Klong San districts as well as parts of Thon Buri district in the western part of Bangkok.

He said he was upbeat about joining the party, which he said is billed by the locals as a "new party" they could do business with.

Mr Sansana has dabbled in the political field as he advises a subcommittee on national revenue collection under the National Legislative Assembly's Committee on Economics, Monetary Affairs and Finance. In his school days, he studied at the highly competitive Suankularb Wittayalai School, which is only a short distance from Thon Buri across the Chao Phraya River.

He said many school alumni as well as friends from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy, from which he graduated, are living in the areas in Thon Buri where he is running in the poll. He said many stand ready to help him canvass for votes.

"As I am a new candidate in a new party with zero support base to my name and without local politicians backing me, I must start from scratch," said Mr Sansana. "If I make only 1% progress [in canvassing] a day, it would be a positive step for me."

Mr Sansana is likely to be up against Suran Chantarapitak, a former Democrat MP, who will be a tough opponent to beat. Mr Suran is the younger brother of Democrat firebrand Wilat Chantarapitak, who has served as an MP in this zone several times.

According to Mr Sansana, he is no stranger to residents in the constituency. He has helped them develop their medium and small-scale businesses. In Bangkok Yai, he said there are still many craftsmen who produce engraved silver bowls, a dying trade which needs to be carried on and promoted.

In Thon Buri district, a living, "edible" part of tradition also should be kept alive, he says, referring to the Portuguese-influenced khanom farang kuti jin cupcakes, which are made of flour and duck eggs and baked in a charcoal grill oven.

On a more serious note, Mr Sansana is experienced in business advice and consultancy, which are skills he can apply in helping locals maintain the traditional crafting jobs. He wants to encourage residents to form community enterprises to promote their products.

Pada Vorakanon

As a newcomer to politics, Pada Vorakanon knows her lack of experience could stand in the way of her realising her ambition to become a member of parliament. But with support from former Bangkok MPs, Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Sakoltee Phattiyakul, she says she is ready to take all comers as she vies for Bangkok's Constituency 6.

After graduating from its Faculty of Arts, Ms Pada obtained a master's degree in environment economics from Chulalongkorn University and another in environment management from Yale University in the United States.

She joined the National Economic and Social Development Board in the area of mass transit system development and environmental impact before moving to the private sector. Ms Pada, 41, has worked on sales and marketing strategies for two telecom giants, Dtac and TrueMove, and is now in the real estate and property business and has a keen interest in green building.

The turning point for the young MP candidate came when she joined a training programme for executives in urban development run by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. She was introduced to Mr Buddhipongse, Mr Sakoltee, and Natthapol Pateepsuwan, all former Bangkok MPs who have switched from the Democrat Party to the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP). She is now a candidate under the PPRP ticket in one of the toughest contests in the city.

Constituency 6 has traditionally been a stronghold of Mr Buddhipongse and Mr Sakoltee and Ms Pada hopes to capitalise on their popularity to earn votes. Moreover, she has the backing of a number of former city councillors who have defected from the Democrat Party to the PPRP.

She will be pitted against Democrat heavyweight Atavit Suwannapak­dee, but she remains confident. "They're backing me to run in the constituency and I will have to push myself hard not to let them down," she said.

To compete with Mr Atavit, she intends to exploit her strength in environmental and urban development issues, remarking that homelessness and rubbish accumulation are key problems her constituents face on a daily basis.

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