Only one woman withstood Move Forward’s Bangkok takeover – meet Theerarat Samrejvanich
Theerarat Samrejvanich is unique among Bangkok MPs who were elected on May 14 for one simple reason. She is the only successful candidate who did not run for the Move Forward Party.
Amid a huge surge of support for Move Forward in Bangkok, Theerarat’s success suggests that if politicians work hard enough, constituents in their stronghold will not abandon them completely.
After campaigning hard in her home neighborhood of Lat Krabang, Pheu Thai Party’s Theerarat was rewarded with the narrowest of victories over strong contender Chumpol Lakkham of Move Forward.
Theerarat won the election by just four votes, earning 34,749 to Chumpol’s 34,745.
She, therefore, earned the right to return as a Bangkok MP once the vote is verified by the Election Commission.
Growing up in Lat Krabang
Born in 1979, Theerarat, or “Aim”, grew up in a family of eight children. Her father is a former Bangkok councilor for Lat Krabang. With such a large family to take care of, he eventually switched to a less taxing political role behind the scenes.
During his time as councilor, locals would turn up at the family home at all hours of the day seeking help. Theerarat recalled how her parents, both of whom are Lat Krabang natives, would leave the house gate unlocked until midnight or even 2am as they listened to people’s grievances and offered ways to help.
That background has given Theerarat a knowledge of how to connect with locals and address the kind of problems that they face.
After graduating from Bangkok University, Theerarat traveled to Australia to further her studies. She returned to Thailand with a master’s degree in international business and a doctorate in transdisciplinary education.
She launched her career in the Human Resources Department of Kasikornbank. But after just one year there, she accepted an invitation to work with the Pheu Thai Party.
Thai politics at the time was polarized into “yellow” and “red” camps. Theerarat opted for Pheu Thai, which was hugely popular among red shirts.
However, she attributed her successful bid to become a Bangkok MP to locals who knew she truly stood by them. Her votes, she insisted, came from both yellow shirts and red shirts.
In 2011, she was elected as an MP for the first time after beating the incumbent from the Democrat Party.
Theerarat has since been recognized as a rising new-generation politician in the Pheu Thai camp.
Although the Pheu Thai-led government was ousted by the 2014 coup, Theerarat refused to give up her political career. She continued to reach out to people living in Lat Krabang, reportedly under the watchful eye of the military.
Her efforts paid off. At the 2019 general election, the first since the coup, Lat Krabang voters made her their MP once again. One of the candidates she defeated was her uncle, who contested in the same constituency for Palang Pracharath.
In 2021, Pheu Thai named Theerarat as its spokeswoman.
Social media following
As a young-gen politician, Theerarat has been keen to use social media to promote her work and her stances on various issues. Her Twitter and Facebook accounts have attracted a small army of young followers, who are in turn keen to spread her message online. Photos and clips of her activities are often shared widely, adding to her fame and reputation as a hard-working politician.
Theerarat’s name is often linked with another Pheu Thai MP Jiraporn Sindhuprai after their young supporters created a special hashtag for them.
A Roi Et MP, Jiraporn was born in 1987, studied at Assumption University and earned a master’s degree at the University of Reading in England.
The two female politicians are widely promoted as a pair after being spotted spending plenty of time together. In one clip, Jiraporn can be seen sporting an admiring smile as she watches Theerarat speak in Parliament. Both usually sit together during parliamentary sessions.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk