Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang faces tough choice – surrender post or fight election
Having served as Bangkok’s governor for six years by special appointment of the junta, Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang is now seriously considering whether to run in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
A recent survey of voters by Thammasat University’s Research and Consultancy Institute ranked Chadchart first and Suchatvee second in terms of popularity. Each received support from more than 20 percent of respondents.
Aswin’s deputy governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul also declared his intention to run in the gubernatorial election, quitting his post on March 6. If Aswin decides to join him in the race, both he and Sakoltee will run as independent candidates.
Their respective chances of winning will largely depend on whom among the pair Palang Pracharath decides to support. The ruling party has already made clear that it will not field any candidate in the governor election, which will be held on May 22 – the eighth anniversary of the 2014 coup. Both Sakoltee and Aswin have strong ties with the party.
After building his career largely in the Royal Thai Police, Aswin landed his post as Bangkok governor on October 18, 2016, by order of the coup-making National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
‘Knight’ in shining armour
Aswin, whose name means “knight”, was born in 1951. He was raised and schooled in Suphan Buri province, where he graduated from junior secondary education. He then entered a provincial police school before joining the Royal Police Cadet Academy.
He climbed the career ladder quickly, becoming deputy commander of the Crimes Suppression Division (CSD) in 1995, then Chiang Rai police chief, before rising to CSD chief in 1999. He was named deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau in 2004 and then promoted to chief of Provincial Police Region 2 in 2006.
In 2007, he was appointed Metropolitan Police commissioner, then became assistant National Police chief a year later before eventually retiring from the force as a deputy national police commissioner.
During his time in the police, Aswin earned a reputation as a top crime-buster, with notable arrests of high-profile criminals such as drug kingpin Noppon Prasongsil (Jib Paikhieo) in 2010. Aswin was also credited with solving the car bomb plot against then-PM Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 and tackling the drug ring masterminded by crime lord Jo Danchang, who was killed by officials in Suphan Buri in 1996.
After retiring from the police force, Aswin was named as deputy Bangkok governor by then-governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra.
When the NCPO handed him the Bangkok-governor post, Aswin appointed one of his sons, Pol Lt Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, as spokesman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
Married with three children, Aswin was named an outstanding father in 2010.
After nine years without a local election in Bangkok, voters will have an opportunity to choose their governor and 50 councillors, representing the city’s 50 districts, on Sunday May 22nd, after the Election Commission (EC) finally set the date for local elections in Bangkok and Pattaya.
Performance as governor
As Bangkok governor, Aswin has faced frequent criticism over his response to flooding, traffic congestion, and environmental problems. However, he has also made several notable achievements during his tenure.
Aswin notes that “Bangkok has changed” in regard to infrastructure and landscape under his tenure. For example, the construction of Srinakarin-Romklao Road is now benefitting more than 200,000 vehicles each day.
Under Aswin’s governorship, Bangkok’s Ong Ang Canal has been cleaned up and beautified to the point where it has become a new city attraction. The Ong Ang initiative was even bestowed with the 2020 Asian Townscape Award by UN-Habitat – the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.
Elsewhere, Aswin helped develop the Chao Phraya Sky Park, a new landmark in the capital. Meanwhile, his tenure has also seen the linking of thousands of standalone security cameras to boost the safety of Bangkok residents.
The Mahakan Fort park has also finally materialized under Aswin’s leadership. This project took decades to complete because it involved the relocation of old communities.
By Thai PBS World’s General Desk