11 July 2024

For many observers, the hope surrounding Bangkok’s newly elected governor is matched by excitement over the team he has chosen to work alongside him.

As Chadchart Sittipunt takes charge of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), supporting his bid to turn policies into concrete gains for the city will be a group of experts and leaders in their fields.

The four deputies, nine advisers, and five secretaries with one of them also doubling as BMA spokesman – all handpicked by the governor himself – represent a diverse mix of occupations, expertise, age groups, and genders. They also mark a change from the more homogenously male and uniformed makeup of previous city administrations.

Who’s on the team?

Each of the 18 men and women Chadchart has selected is stirring interest across the capital.

The list features both familiar names and rising political stars including four “iron ladies”, several academics, retired military officers, successful businesspeople, and young-generation citizens.

Chadchart’s four deputies are BMA veteran Chakkaphan Phewngam, risk management and public policy specialist Asst Prof Tavida Kamolvej, former Chulalongkorn University (CU) executive and lecturer Assoc Prof Wisanu Subsompon, and 33-year-old social-enterprise founder Sanon Wangsrangboon.

Heading his advisory team is engineer Torsak Chotimongkol, a former managing director of the Tobacco Authority of Thailand and key figure behind Chadchart’s successful election campaign.

The campaign team fondly referred to Torsak as “Akong” (grandpa) but confirmed he was still open-minded and able to connect with youngsters despite his age. He is also well-connected in the business world.

The rest of Chadchart’s advisory team comprises former permanent secretary for Defense General Nipat Thonglek, former Royal College of Physicians president Air Marshal Dr Anutra Chittinandana; CU lecturer and real-estate developer Dr Kessara Thanyalakpark; former Royal Thai Police senior deputy inspector Pol General Adis Ngamchitsuksri; ex-Bangkok councilor Dr Wilawan Tummachart; water-drainage specialist Attaseth Petmeesri; Panumas Sukamporn from a disability network; and 30-year-old environmentalist Pornphrom Vikitsreth, who also works as a university lecturer and was a prominent member of the Democrat Party’s New Dem youth faction.

Chadchart’s secretary is Pimuk Simaroj, a former Kla Party deputy leader and chairman of fuel company Susco.

The four assistant secretaries are former Voice TV news anchor Aekvarunyoo Amrapala; former manager of Pheu Thai Youth Institute Sani Jiewjinda; social activist Jirath Mawai; and Thongsook College executive Sitichai Arunyakanon. Aekvarunyoo, 38, who will also serve as BMA spokesperson.

Of Chadchart’s 18 highly qualified team members, the only one with a blemish on her record is Sani. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) found her guilty of manipulating the shares of Kiattana Transport Plc (KIAT) in 2014, for which she was fined 7.7 million baht last year.

However, Chadchart has spoken up in her defense, saying the misdemeanor was something that happened in the past and that she now has the potential to serve the public well in her new job.

Deputies in focus

With several years of experience lecturing in CU’s Faculty of Engineering under his belt, Chadchart has undoubtedly cultivated good ties in the academic world. So when he landed the top job in Bangkok, it was no surprise that he tapped Thailand’s oldest university for new talent.

Engineering star

Chadchart managed to talk Wisanu, 54, into giving up his job at the university to serve as a deputy governor.

Wisanu graduated with top honors from CU’s Engineering Faculty in 1990. Three years later, he received a master’s degree in civil engineering and a PhD in the subject in 1996 from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.

He then returned to CU to lecture in engineering, climbing the ladder to become vice president of the university’s property and physical resources management department.

Wisanu is also respected outside campus, and has held directorships in many big firms including Land and Houses, Airports of Thailand, and BFIT Securities.

Social activist

Another of Chadchart’s deputies, Sanon, also graduated from CU’s Faculty of Engineering. After working as a factory engineer for five years, Sanon launched social enterprises to address causes close to his heart. He also co-founded Satarana, a civil-society network that focuses on city and community resilience, and contributed to Mayday, which designed Bangkok’s new bus stops. Many Bangkokians will remember Sanon as an active campaigner against the controversial eviction of the Mahakan Fort community.

BMA veteran

Chakkaphan, meanwhile, already has extensive experience in Bangkok’s administration because the BMA is where he built his career. The 66-year-old joined the city administration as a junior statistician several decades ago. He rose up the ranks quickly before eventually retiring as a BMA deputy permanent secretary.

When the junta appointed Aswin Kwanmuang as the 16th Bangkok governor in 2016, Chakkaphan was handed the deputy governor’s post. However, he resigned three years later amid rumors that he had opposed two incinerator projects and stepped down instead of approving them.

Chadchart joked that he had chosen Chakkaphan for one reason only: “He wakes up at 4am like me, so we can discuss work early.”

Disaster-risk expert 

Tavida, Chadchart’s only female deputy, has been a lecturer at Thammasat University since 1998 and has deep experience of Bangkok’s administration issues. For one thing, she is the daughter of a former Bangkok councilor who was director of the Phya Thai district office, and for another, she has been a member of various BMA advisory panels.

The academic received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from Thammasat University. She also earned a Graduate Certificate in Public Management in social sciences from the University of South Florida and a PhD in public administration and public policy from the University of Pittsburgh.

Outside campus, Tavida is known for her expertise in disaster risk management and public policy analysis and design. She has been a risk-management advisor not only to Thai authorities but also to several organizations overseas, including Singapore’s fintech research firm Risk Lighthouse International.

Chadchart has delegated BMA jobs based on his deputies’ expertise. Tavida is in charge of disaster risk management and public-health affairs, Chakkaphan of financial affairs, Wisanu of infrastructure, drainage and traffic, while Sanon will oversee social development and education.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk