11 July 2024

A local election in Pathum Thani, for the chief executive of the Provincial Administrative Organisation (POA) tomorrow, will be closely watched as a measure of Thaksin Shinawatra’s residual political clout.

The ruling Pheu Thai party and Thaksin were handed a blow in the selection of new senators recently, when Thaksin’s brother-in-law and former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat failed to secure a seat in the upper house.

Observers say that Thaksin cannot afford to lose again tomorrow, albeit a local poll.

He has assigned his children, Paetongtarn, leader of Pheu Thai, and Panthongtae, to help campaign for Pheu Thai candidate Charn Puangpetch, a former PAO chief executive.

This is an indication of how much importance Thaksin places on this election and it is the first in which he is publicly helping a campaign since returning to Thailand last year.

The bid to win this Sunday’s election is seen as an attempt to rest some of Pheu Thai’s former popularity back from Move Forward, which is not fielding a candidate.

If Charn wins tomorrow, it would be a sign that Thaksin retains some clout in Pathum Thani, which was Pheu Thai’s former stronghold.

Another leading contender for the position is also a former close ally of Thaksin, retired Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit Thoopkrajang, once the Metropolitan police chief.

Kamronwit was previously known for his loyalty to Thaksin, famously framing a photo featuring both of them with the caption, “What I am today is because of this brother (Thaksin).”

The relationship between the two men was, however, cast asunder in the general election last year, when Kamronwit, then Pathum Thani’s PAO chief, showed up at Move Forward party campaign events and was suspected of secretly supporting Bhumjaithai.

Pheu Thai won only one of the seven House seats in Pathum Thani, with Move Forward securing the rest. Pheu Thai blamed the failure on Kamronwit, among others.

Kamronwit is running tomorrow as an independent candidate, saying that, as PAO chief, one must know everyone’s problems and be ready to help solve them.

“If I run under a party banner, when a problem occurs that needs fixing, I would have to ask permission from the party first. That may not allow for the provision of timely help,” he said.

Asked if the return of Thaksin has any impact on the election campaign, he replied, “How can I say that his return has no effect? He is a person known worldwide. I am, of course, worried because he has deployed big names to help campaign for his candidate.”

Kamronwit said he will do the best he can to win the election.

by Marisa Chimprabha