Pheu Thai eyes landslide
Under new leader Cholnan Srikaew, the Pheu Thai party has set its sights high for tomorrow and beyond
The main opposition Pheu Thai Party underwent a restructuring of its executive board in October last year under new leader Cholnan Srikaew, who vowed his party will not settle for anything less than a landslide victory in the next general election.
The change saw new-generation executives step in, and it remains to be seen how the party will proceed under the new leadership.
Born June 4, 1961, in Nan, Dr Cholnan graduated in medical science from Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine in 1986 before obtaining a master's degree in public administration from the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida).
He began his career as a doctor at Wiang Sa Hospital in Nan before serving as a director of Pua Crown Prince Hospital in Nan's Pua district between 1995 and 2000. He entered politics and was elected as a Thai Rak Thai MP for the first time in 2001.
Dr Cholnan also served as deputy public health minister under the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2012.
Dr Cholnan told the Bangkok Post he never expected to take the party's helm, and he was surprised when chosen as party leader.
But in listening to supporters, he realised the party needs to reform from within rather than have change imposed from without.
"After hearing what they had to say, I was convinced I have what it takes. It did not take long before I decided to take the job. I am confident I can do it," Dr Cholnan said.
His primary aim, he said, is to win as many votes in the next election as possible under the party's new slogan: "Tomorrow for Pheu Thai, for a new life for the people".
Dr Cholnan said he became an MP in 2001 under the now-dissolved Thai Rak Thai, which was later reincarnated as Pheu Thai. He served in several party executive posts.
He also admitted he was initially concerned that senior party members might be upset that he was chosen over them for the top party job, possibly overlooking seniority.
However, his concern was allayed after a strategic committee was formed comprising senior members, he said.
"This allows for a smooth passing of the baton from one generation to another," Dr Cholnan said, adding that he has also served as the leader of the opposition in parliament while several senior party members are not elected MPs.
"We have to rise up and meet new challenges and keep pace with a fast-changing world in terms of technology, innovation and paradigms.
"It is vital to better connect with new tools and the new generations of people using them," Dr Cholnan said.
He added that he and newly elected executive members serve as a link between senior party members and the new generation.
As part of the "sandwich generation" between senior and young party members, he said he sometimes struggles to respond effectively to various demands in the party.
While some may be disgruntled or complain if their demands are not met, rarely does anyone refuse to cooperate, he said, adding that coordination between senior and young members has improved during the last three months.
"I have to thank the previous executive board and party advisers who agreed that the party needed to change. This smoothed the way for us to take over and rebrand the party's image and improve political communication," Dr Cholnan said.
"Our goal is to make the party a political institution and expand our network to allow people to take part. This includes the launch of a 'Pheu Thai Family' campaign after the by-election in Bangkok [on Jan 30]," he said.
He said that Pheu Thai has now mobilised resources and personnel to support its candidate, Surachart Thienthong, in the poll.
"We hope to win the poll. The outcome of this by-election will be an indication as to whether the government should stay in power. If voters choose the opposition, this means they don't like the government," Dr Cholnan said.
As for the upcoming Bangkok governor election, the party still cannot find a candidate suited to run for the post, though party members have the right to support any candidates who uphold democracy, he said.
The opposition leader also took aim at the current government, accusing it of failing to solve issues affecting people's daily life, including the high cost of living, particularly the skyrocketing prices of pork.
"The government is on shaky ground as a result of these crises, and this will prompt people to rise up against the government," Dr Cholnan.
He went on to say that Pheu Thai's aim of winning a landslide in the next election isn't far-fetched.
The party is confident that the two-ballot voting system, which will replace the current one-ballot system in the next poll, will give Pheu Thai an advantage.
"Pheu Thai must win at least 253 House seats to become government. Combined with other political allies, we may gather 300 votes to set up a stable government," Dr Cholnan said.
However, he said Pheu Thai must work hard if it is indeed to win a landslide in the next election.
Dr Cholnan added that Pheu Thai will work with all political parties that do not support dictatorship and share democratic principles.
Dr Cholnan said the party will propose three candidates for prime minister as in the previous election, though it remains to be seen whether he will be among the prime ministerial candidates.
The party is considering who will be the candidates, he said, before adding the candidates in question must be well recognised by the people and can offer them hope.