Thai MP Sira courting controversy but flirting with disaster
Although new to Parliament, Sira Jenjaka has lost no time in stealing the limelight from veteran MPs – drawing publicity for his outspoken views, belligerent talk and ability to take centre stage in one controversy after another.
Sira’s latest attention-grabbing act came earlier this month, when he upstaged the media circus surrounding the censure motion against 10 Cabinet members by displaying a gold amulet he wears that bears the image of his Palang Pracharath Party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.
Sira, who chairs the House committee on law, justice and human rights, made headlines for claiming the man himself had given him blessing to wear the amulet – though Prawit denies any knowledge of the accessory or the MP’s penchant for it.
“Maybe he just admires me,” Prawit said.
Anti-graft activist Srisuwan Janya vowed to file an official complaint over the pendant stunt, calling it a gross violation of parliamentary ethics.
Sira, 57, has been embroiled in several controversies since making it his mission to lock horns with fellow lawmakers following his election to Parliament in March 2019.
His MP status is under threat after the Constitutional Court last month accepted a petition signed by 146 opposition MPs, who argue Sira should not have been allowed to run in the 2019 polls because he was found guilty of fraud in 1995.The Constitution prohibits anyone convicted of public fraud from contesting an election.
However, the opposition failed to get Sira suspended from Parliament while waiting for the court’s verdict.
Conflicts and controversies
Sira is embroiled in an ongoing feud with Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, leader of the coalition’s Seree Ruam Thai Party and chair of the House anti-corruption and misconduct committee. The dispute boiled over when they launched legal cases against each other while sitting on the panel. Sira finally quit the panel last September, claiming Sereepisuth had prevented him from investigating alleged corruption linked to an MP.
In August 2019, Sira again made headlines when he got into a heated exchange with a senior policeman in Phuket on a visit to inspect a controversial condominium project.
The MP was furious that local police had not provided him with a security detail, which is standard procedure during a parliamentarian’s visit. The police officer disputed his claim, which led to an angry argument. Earlier, Sira said he had received death threats for revealing “problems with the paperwork” for the plot on which the condo was being built.
About a year later, in August 2020, he was threatened again after becoming involved in a separate dispute with fellow coalition MP Mongkolkit Suksintaranont from the Thai Civilised Party. Sira showed the press a copy of Mongkolkit’s Facebook post threatening to knock his teeth out.
The two MPs had fallen out after Mongkolkit said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should resign for failing to curb growing anti-government protests.
Protest command centre
Born on January 5, 1964, Sira earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Krirk University in Bangkok. He had two children with his first wife before splitting up and remarrying.
In 2013, Sira’s traditional teakwood mansion in Bangkok’s Lak Si district became a command centre for street protests that sparked the 2014 coup against Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government. Sira was the “favourite disciple” of protest leader and then-Buddhist monk Buddha Isara, according to the press.
Following the coup, Sira became a member of the junta-appointed National Reform Council.
His first bid to enter politics had failed miserably three years earlier in 2011, when he contested an election in his home constituency of Lak Si. He lost to Pheu Thai candidate Surachart Thienthong by nearly 26,000 votes.
However, he took sweet revenge eight years later when he beat Surachart by nearly 3,000 votes in a turnaround that confounded many analysts.
Before entering politics, Sira was the director of two companies and also ran a Muay Thai boxing camp called Sor Sirada.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk