Korn wants Kla Party to go it alone
The Kla Party has now been established for almost two years and, in a special interview, party leader Korn Chatikavanij, told the Bangkok Post why he is ready to be the next prime minister and how his party is ready to heal and bring genuine change to a polarised society.
Can you introduce the Kla Party to the public? What are your main policies?
Actually, it has been established for almost two years now since I resigned from the current parliament. The Kla Party is designed to be a platform for those professionals who want to contribute to society through the political arena. And it is for those looking to establish a bright future for Thais and Thailand as a whole during a period of rapid global change in technology, demographics and geopolitics.
The Kla sees economic well-being as critical and is determined not to let the divisive distraction and noise of Thai politics have a detrimental impact on the development and creation of opportunities for Thais.
You say you are ready to be prime minister on the party’s Facebook page — what special qualities would you bring to the role?
It doesn’t have to be me, it’s up to the people, but I’m ready. I think, as I just mentioned, the leader of the country needs to fully understand the changes that are taking place and the adjustments that are required for Thailand to take full advantage. However, a leader also needs experience and know-how, and my time in the private sector and the political arena, as a minister of finance, have prepared me well. Whether I get to do what I feel is necessary is really up to the people.
Now the Kla Party has been active for almost two years, what do the people, both in Bangkok and other provinces, ask for when you meet them?
We are actually currently running in three by-elections in Chumphon, Songkhla and Bangkok, and one common theme that has emerged from meeting the people is their desire for improvement, for changes and for fresh and honest leadership. I think this bodes well for the Kla Party and the different perspectives we bring to politics. We offer real change, starting from the political leadership all the way down to practical politics. So I think this matches the desire and the overall sentiment of the people whether in Bangkok or the provinces. This bodes well for us.
Do you believe the candidates you have chosen in Chumphon, Songkhla and Bangkok can win over voters’ hearts and minds?
I’m very confident in their qualities. We choose our candidates very carefully so that they match what the party wants to do and wants to offer to society as a whole. The pair standing in Chumphon and Songkhla are new to the political scene and have never run for political office before.
One is a career policeman, and the other is a young attorney. Most importantly, both have a public spirit and understand that politics is all about sacrifice. So, we’re very confident that they possess exactly the kind of qualities people want to see in parliament. Lately, in my opinion, there have been too many MPs elected who are not public service oriented and I think that this has been negative for our politics.
Whether we can win or not is another matter. One problem we face, particularly in the provinces, although not yet in Bangkok, is the increasing use of money in elections. I think this is well documented at both the local and national levels. I think it’s very sad and isn’t reported on enough in the media although everybody knows it to be true. So, it is hard for parties such as ours that choose not to participate in vote buying to win. I am not saying this is an excuse, but we must temper our confidence in the quality of our candidates and the people’s desire for change with the reality that we are up against money changing hands under the table to stop us.
Do you think Thailand should have a general election this year?
Obviously, it depends on the prime minister (Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha). If he wants to continue in the role until the very end of his elected term, then I think the people would like to hear what he intends to do with that remaining time. I think the lack of clarity on the matter has a bearing on the matter.
But if he has a clear agenda in terms of what he wants to achieve in the remaining period, then I think the people would be quite willing to let him continue. So, it really depends on his agenda. If he does not have one, he needs to spell it out more clearly. At the moment, I don’t think people appreciate what it is he wants to hang on to do. Then people might feel more relaxed about waiting another year for the next election.
What is your central message to supporters of both your own party as well as those of others?
If you want change, if you want a political leader who understands what changes are required and if you want your MPs to be free to take the action that is needed, then Kla is the party for you. If you want professionals who have a deep understanding of important and relevant issues, then the Kla Party should be your party. If you want representatives who are determined to clean up Thai politics and rid it of corruption, then vote for us. I think there are a sufficient number of people out there who want to see change. The only question is whether we can convince them that we are committed to these principles and whether we can put that commitment into practice.
Polarisation has been the main problem in Thai politics for a long time — how will your party, as a relative newcomer, seek to mend these divisions?
That’s a very good question. The party might be new, but I have been in politics for 17 years. I have seen the political divide grow during that period and I can see that those it benefits most are political leaders and not the people or the country.
We have found our party under attack from both the radical left and the radical right which suggests to us that we are taking the correct path. We are determined to take sides with neither the left nor the right, only with the truth.
It is a strategy that takes courage as it leaves us open to attack, but consider this: by taking a side or by demanding others do so, what, in effect, are you really hoping to achieve?
You are asking people to take a stance regardless of right and wrong — is that what we really want in politics?
We, the Kla Party, particularly during the current by-elections, are often asked whose side our MPs would be on in the House? The answer is that we will side with the people, and we will side with the truth. Any issue that is raised in parliament we agree with we will strongly support, and those that we disagree with, we will strongly oppose. That is what you should expect from your politicians.