Chaichanok Chidchob: Heir of political ‘kingmaker’ Newin stakes claim in Bhumjaithai

Profile photo: Chaichanok Chidchob//his Fb page

The resignation of Saksayam Chidchob, brother of political heavyweight Newin Chidchob, as secretary-general of the coalition Bhumjaithai Party has triggered upheaval in its executive board and the appointment of his son Chaichanok in the key party seat.

Chaichanok, 33, was elected the new secretary-general at a party general meeting late last month, replacing his uncle Saksayam, who stepped down in January after the Constitutional Court found him guilty of concealing his shares and ownership of a construction company that won contracts worth billions from the government.

Anutin Charnvirakul, the interior minister, managed to retain his seat as Bhumjaithai leader, while Newin’s eldest son and several other young politicians from provincial political clans were appointed to the party’s executive board.

Newin, a former Prime Minister’s Office minister and onetime political “kingmaker”, is a Bhumjaithai co-founder and thought to be the party’s de facto leader.

He claims to have washed his hands of politics in 2012 to set up Buriram United football club in his native province, serving as its chairman ever since.

A political heir

A widespread perception that the secretary-general’s post was reserved for a Chidchob family member was not disputed by Chaichanok.

Quizzed by reporters following his appointment, he acknowledged his family name may have outweighed his lack of political experience.

But lessons he had learned from his father and grandfather, both politicians, should give him a head start in his new party post, he said.

“Being a political heir is a big plus. And I am ready to prove my worth and be judged by the party’s supporters and members,” Chaichanok said.

He added that the party’s major changes and decisions stemmed from careful consideration by its senior figures and former executives.

“It’s because we work as a team,” he said.

His late grandfather, Chai Chidchob, served as the House of Representatives speaker and Parliament president from 2008 to 2011. Both Newin and Chai were MPs for the northeastern province of Buri Ram.

A debutant MP

Born on July 14, 1990, in Buri Ram, Chaichanok was sent to study in England when he was eight. He attended Millfield School in Glastonbury before going on to study economics and finance at a London university.

After 17 years in England, he returned to Thailand at the age of 25 and applied to serve in the military – an experience he described as “life-changing” and “eye-opening”.

Chaichanok was elected as an MP for the first time in last year’s general election, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by representing his native province.

Buri Ram has long been the political stronghold of the Chidchobs, even before the birth of Bhumjaithai in 2008.

Despite his junior status as a debutant MP, Chaichanok has played a prominent part in Bhumjaithai and joined last August’s meeting with Pheu Thai to create an alliance to form the coalition government.

Bhumjaithai is the third-largest party in Parliament, winning 71 MPs to Pheu Thai’s 141 in last year’s election.

Unmarried, Chaichanok is worth 161.6 million baht, according to his assets declaration filed with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) after becoming an MP.

According to an NACC announcement published last September, his assets include 50.5 million baht in bank deposits, 12.9 million in investments, seven land plots valued at 24.1 million, and seven vehicles worth 14.5 million including a Bentley Continental GT priced at 8 million baht.

Former gaming addict

Before entering politics, Chaichanok worked in senior executive posts for his family business, Buriram United, and its Chang International Circuit motorsports arena.

He also served as the chief executive of Buriram United E-sports, which he founded at the age of 29, inspired by his love of electronic sports based on video games.

“It’s a sport almost without boundaries. Competitors can be guys, girls, young, old. You could lose a limb and still become a professional e-sport player. That’s the charm for me,” Chaichanok told lifestyle media website three years ago.

Once viewed as a gaming addict, the young politician said he was proud that the success of Buriram United E-sports in international competitions helped change society’s negative perception of e-sports.

Chaichanok resigned all his executive posts in his family-run businesses last year, two weeks before the May 14 general election.

 By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk


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