Constructive dialogues key to weather crisis

Constructive dialogues key to weather crisis

Bhumjaithai spokesman urges MPs to talk less, do more

Bhumjaithai Party spokesman Settapong Malisuwan
Bhumjaithai Party spokesman Settapong Malisuwan

Bhumjaithai Party spokesman Settapong Malisuwan said he isn't the type to trade barbs with political rivals. Instead, he said, he'd rather focus on presenting the party's policies to the public.

He also suggesting that in light of the coronavirus crisis, politicians should switch from talking to doing if they want to be acknowledged by the people.

The 54-year-old Bhumjaithai list MP finished high school from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School before joining the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (CRMA), where he obtained a bachelor's degree in electrical communication engineering.

Col Settapong then received a scholarship from the army to pursue a Master's degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

He received another Master's degree in the same field at George Washington University, before he went on to the Florida Atlantic University to pursue his doctorate degree.

In 1990, he served in the army's signal battalion. He was a lecturer at the CRMA for 10 years before he became vice-chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) in 2011.

After a seven-year stint at the NBTC, he quit in October 2018 to join the Bhumjaithai Party, where he was appointed party spokesman.

"The party was looking for a spokesperson with a modern attitude who is able to focus on presenting the party's policies rather than throwing political recriminations around, which correspond with my personal belief.

"I prefer to explain and make others understand rather than attack them. But when you enter politics, it is impossible to avoid discussions.

"I try to make sure my discussions are constructive,'' Col Settapong told the Bangkok Post.

He said he never thought of entering politics and had even declined an invitation from party leader Anutin Charnvirakul. But after much contemplation, he said he decided to give it a try.

"If it isn't successful, I won't feel sorry because at least I tried," he said.

Col Settapong said if his stint in politics proved to be beneficial for the country, he'd be more than happy to stay on.

If politics turned out to not be his cup of tea, he said at least he gained new experiences from it.

"I decided to join the party because I believe in Mr Anutin. We're good friends," he said.

He deployed an investment analogy to describe his political bid. "I believe I'll at least break even -- not make a loss," Col Settapong said. "If I profit, then my political career will advance."

He stressed that his principle is to avoid criticising others and to listen more to those who disagree with him.

"They probably disagree because they don't understand us and we need to explain it to them. But if they disagree and they are right in their opinions, we need to look at ourselves and change,'' he said.

He added that it is important to engage in constructive dialogues by making more friends than foes.

"When the public doesn't hate us, they are more likely to be more open to our perspective," he said.

"We also need to provide useful and accurate information, and avoid attacking anyone without reason. This will help us communicate better and they will become our voters in the future."

Col Settapong said politicians who make slanderous remarks against others will end up losing support from their voters, as people will judge them based on media reports which expose the way they think and act.

"Politicians should talk less and listen more, particularly during the coronavirus crisis. They should only present facts and action plans, rather than their personal opinions and criticisms of others," he said.

As the Bhumjaithai Party spokesman, Col Settapong said he hit the campaign trail ahead of last year's general election to promote the party's policies -- some of which, he said, are relevant to the current situation.

As people are being told to stay home to help curb the spread of Covid-19, Bhumjaithai's proposals to promote working from home and telemedicine have proved to be important and must be implemented, Col Settapong said.

On a more optimistic note, Col Settapong said the novel coronavirus pandemic will act as a catalyst for dramatic changes within the education, communication, and telecommunications sector.

He said it will change the way people work -- ushering in a new, fully-digital age for the country.

"Our policies are proving to be practical and from now on, the focus will be more on how we will carry these policies forward," he said.

"We have to make sure that we have the consent and mandate of the people, because civil society is more powerful than parliament.

"Opinions voiced on social media have more impact, and all politicians -- even the prime minister -- have to listen," Col Settapong said.

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