Korn eyeing 'a bigger role'

Korn eyeing 'a bigger role'

Speculation rife key Democrat quit party to launch 'political third force'

Korn Chatikavanij's decision to quit the Democrat Party was formalised on Wednesday with a resignation letter presented to the Election Commission. (Bangkok Post photo)
Korn Chatikavanij's decision to quit the Democrat Party was formalised on Wednesday with a resignation letter presented to the Election Commission. (Bangkok Post photo)

Former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij's surprise decision to quit the Democrat Party has sparked fierce speculation he is about to found a new party which could be a force to be reckoned with.

The resignation of the party heavyweight has confirmed the internal conflicts in the country's oldest political party. Rumours of Mr Korn's resignation emerged several times after former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stepped down as the party leader after the Democrats flopped in the March 24 election last year.

Mr Korn's decision to quit was formalised on Wednesday with a resignation letter presented to the Election Commission. He is the latest Democrat heavyweight to depart the party, following the exit of Pirapan Salirathavibhaga who defected to the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and was made the prime minister's adviser.

Disunity in the party was seen clearly after Jurin Laksanawisit was made its new leader. Mr Jurin led the party to join the PPRP's coalition, which has a wafer-thin majority.

The decision of the new leader prompted Mr Abhisit, who disagreed with the decision, to resign as a party MP. Meanwhile, Mr Korn who is close friends with Mr Abhisit, apparently had his role in the party reduced. His name was not included in the new economic team set up by Mr Jurin despite being a former finance minister and renowned financier.

Sathit Wongnongtoey, a close aide of Mr Abhisit, posted on Facebook on Wednesday that Mr Korn had not been given an opportunity to play a role in the party.

"He is a gentle man so he never raised this issue," Mr Sathit noted.

Mr Korn's Facebook post on Wednesday to explain his resignation did not mention conflicts but contained what has been construed as plans for a new political party.

The ex-chairman of JP Morgan (Thailand) said during his time as a politician, he had engaged with people from many sectors, giving him a broad and deep understanding of politics and society.

"These experiences were the reasons behind my decision to create a new alternative in politics which people have longed for.

"We want politics with a purpose, politics that can change the country for the better on many fronts. I believe that if we are afraid to push for changes or challenge ourselves, we Thais will find ourselves in a predicament because we won't be able to compete [with other countries]," he said in the Facebook post.

Mr Korn has refused to confirm he is looking to register a new party or what his policies for that party might be.

However, his close aides in the Democrat Party told the Bangkok Post Mr Korn does not plan on joining another party but will most probably establish a new one, drawing on support from like-minded young politicians.

Stithorn Thananithichote, director of the Research and Development Office at King Prajadhipok's Institute, said Mr Korn's resignation opened up two possibilities.

One is that Mr Korn could wait to be approached by the government with an offer to head one of the economic ministries.

An observer said Mr Korn could be an ideal candidate given his experience as finance minister with a recognised track record.

The second and even more likely possibility, said Mr Stithorn, is that Mr Korn will lead a new party well-positioned to attract MPs defecting from a large party at risk of disbandment, a reference to the Future Forward Party, which is facing trial in the Constitutional Court over alleged links with the much-fabled Illuminati secret society.

Mr Stithorn predicts Mr Korn's party will have about 20 MPs, making it a medium-sized party with tremendous political bargaining power should it be offered an opportunity to join the government.

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