New Kla Party plots future free of conflict

New Kla Party plots future free of conflict

Secretary-general says 'free from fear' approach can spark economy

Atavit Suwannapakdee, secretary-general of newly formed Kla Party, says he will not be drawn into a 'democracy-versus-dictatorship' conflict. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Atavit Suwannapakdee, secretary-general of newly formed Kla Party, says he will not be drawn into a 'democracy-versus-dictatorship' conflict. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Atavit Suwannapakdee, secretary-general of the newly-formed Kla Party, says its pragmatic approach to politics without being pulled to the left or right sets it apart from other established parties.

The party serves as a platform for people of all generations to work together, he said, adding it is essential for Thai politics to be free from fear so it can push for change.

The Kla Party has shot to prominence as it tries to carve a niche for itself by capitalising on the credentials of its leader Korn Chatikavanij, a former finance minister and former deputy Democrat Party leader, who has close connections with many entrepreneurs.

The Kla has adopted pragmatism as its core value, focusing on practical approaches to tackling economic woes by embracing a technology-driven business model to fuel the country's growth.

Born on March 26, 1978, Mr Atavit obtained a bachelor's degree in law from Thammasat University and went on to earn a master's degree in banking and financial law from Boston University in the US. He ran as a candidate for the Democrat Party and became a Bangkok MP in 2008.

Mr Atavit said the idea of setting up a new party was born while he and Mr Korn were still members of the Democrat Party. Both sat on the Democrat Pary's policy committee and worked together on crafting election policies, he said.

Mr Atavit said he and Mr Korn share a common ideology, and shortly after the March 24 election last year, they came to the realisation it was time to break away from the Democrats.

"If you want to make radical changes, you must start anew,'' he said.

The world of tomorrow will wait for no one, and political parties must take the lead, he said, adding it is essential to avoid the trap of being pulled to the left, right or even the middle ground.

"In other words, politics must be free from bitter polarisation and pragmatism must be adopted," Mr Atavit said. "It is important that we get to work to respond to these circumstances."

"I told Korn that if we want to do something new, we must go ahead, which led to our decision to leave [the Democrat Party] together,'' he said.

Mr Atavit said the new party's stance is that it will not involve itself in the democracy-versus-dictatorship conflict.

"People are currently frustrated that we live in fear. We fear the country will not become a democracy. We fear new generations of people will change the current social structure and traditions.

"We must step out of the realm of fear ... I want parties to compete by offering policies rather than playing on fears,'' Mr Atavit said.

The Kla Party's pragmatic approach will be applied to improving the economy, agriculture, education, urban life and quality of life, and will deploy soft power to do so, he said, adding it is necessary to change the attitude of those in the bureaucratic system, even though it will be an uphill task.

The Kla Party is also determined to bring together people from all generations to make the most use of their varied experience and opinions, he added.

"The older generation has vast experience and can offer a broader picture, the middle-aged are still at work and can offer a more mellow perspective, while the creativity of the younger generation is very much needed too," Mr Atavit said.

He added the Kla Party will serve as a platform for people from diverse career backgrounds to work together as it aims to steer the country towards a new model by using culture to add value to the economy.

Mr Atavit said the party needs to win enough seats in the next election to gain power. That means the hard work of finding 350 poll candidates has already begun in earnest, he said.

Mr Korn had previously said he wants to avoid aiming too high too early. So, despite the recruiting drive for like-minded potential MPs, he has set a modest goal of winning about 20 seats in the next election.

"I want Mr Korn to become prime minister. When I see him work, I see a prime minister in him,'' Mr Atavit said

Already the Kla Party has been compared to the now-dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP), which appealed to previously passive voters as well as those disenchanted with the country's bitter polarisation.

Mr Atavit said the Kla Party seeks to achieve a harmonious blend of people of all generations with a practical approach to governance, and its main focus is not to clamour for democracy, although it supports political changes that are logical bedfellows with its economic ideals.

For example, the party is backing calls for constitutional amendments, particularly a change to provisions which allow the Senate to join MPs in voting for a prime minister, he said.

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