From anti-rice pledging scheme crusader to Democrat leadership challenger

Few people believe Warong Dechgitvigrom could dethrone Abhisit Vejjajiva in the Democrat Partys leadership battle, but flying under the radar to hit the target seems to be what the former is all about.


Even nowadays, the general public are still asking “Warong who?”  It does not matter that he was one of the Democrat Partys most potent weapons during the last censure debate, lashing out ferociously at the Yingluck governments rice pledging scheme which he said was plagued with corruption.


After the government wobbled amid street protests and then was taken out by the 2014 coup, allegations in the rice programme continued to haunt Yingluck Shinawatra and her senior officialsShe and a few were found guilty of either downright corruption or malfeasance in court verdicts issued under a military ruleEven so, the name Warong” escaped much attention.


Being overlooked, however, is the story of his political lifeHe used to be with Thaksin Shinawatras Thai Rak Thai, but left the party in 2004 after being snubbed in a selection of election candidates. Somebody else was preferred and a bitter Warong subsequently joined the Democrat Party, winning an election in the following year in Phitsanulok, much to the surprised dismay of Thai Rak Thai.


That was just a mini-roller coasterHaving switched from Thai Rak Thai to the Democrats, Warong is now taking a big leap when his profile is concernedHis emergence as one of the candidates to challenge Abhisit is probably one of the most intriguing political developments to date. Now, the littleknown man is presumed in many quarters to be a Trojan horse of militarybacked Prime Minister Prayut Chanocha.


Its a serious accusationAfter all, Warongs rise to challenge Abhisit could be just a part of the Democrats’ laudable tradition of leadership contests that seem more democratic than those of other partiesWarongs link with Suthep Thaugsuban, however, has caused wild speculation which is likely to intensify.



Prayuts chances of holding on to power after the general election depends on how many MPs support him, in addition to the 250strong Senate that critics and analysts say the prime minister has in his pocketMany people think that making the Democrats support Prayut through Warong is easier than through Abhisit.


The suspicion has been caused — and fueled — by outspoken support for Warong from veteran politician Tavorn Sennium, who has strong links with Suthep, who never wants the Shinawatras to regain powerA former powerful Democrat, Suthep has left Thailands oldest party for a new political camp, having led massive protests against the Yingluck administration before the 2014 coup.


Even all of the 250 senators support him, Prayut (in case he is nominated for prime minister prior to the electionwill need at least 126 MPs to vote for him in order to stay in powerIn another scenario, in which he is never nominated for the top government post prior to the election but is invited” after the election due to a parliamentary deadlock, Prayut needs even a lot more support from MPsDemocrat backing is crucial in both scenarios.


Despite his childhood focus of medical studies, Warong loved political activism, setting up a student party at the Chiang Mai University.He received numerous key hospital posts and medical scholarships and also earned a master degree from the National Institute of Development Administrations Graduate School of Public Administration in 2001.


Warong gave up obstetric study, practices, as well as senior local hospital post and joined Thai Rak Thai when Thaksin was scaling his political peakAfter joining the Democrats, his academicoriented style enabled him to climb up the ladder fast, although his name was less well known than those of other highprofile party members.


His connection with Suthep could be a doubleedged sword in the partys leadership electionOn the one hand, Suthep is known to have lingering influences in the Democrat Party, despite having left it, which can bode well for WarongOn the other hand, a lot of Democrats fear that if Warong is elected the next leader, such influences can loom larger.


All of the sudden, Warong has been thrusted into the spotlight and can no longer fly under the radarHis showdown with Abhisit will be very open and closely watched.


By ThaiPBS World’s Political Desk



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