Young candidates woo voters with fresh ideas in Bangkok council race
Although many candidates for the Bangkok Council election are familiar old faces, fresh talent has also surfaced for voters keen to see what the new generation has to offer.
Nitikorn Bunyakulcharoen, a Bangkok council candidate from the Move Forward Party, is just 27. This computer-engineering graduate from the King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi considers his age and youthful image advantage in the election race.
“We will breathe fresh air into the Bangkok Metropolitan Council [BMC],” Nitikorn said.
He is among the 50 or so new-face candidates being fielded by the progressive Move Forward Party.
Young but farsighted
Though Nitikorn is a newcomer to elections, he has been active in politics for nearly two years now. His core ambition is to serve the public, he says.
“I’m interested in politics because I want to drive social development.”
Last year, he launched a platform for people to report flooding in their neighborhoods to alert others about which routes to avoid. This data may also be used to improve flood management in the future.
Nitikorn also created a platform for people to report dangerous pedestrian crossings in the city after a young ophthalmologist was killed by a speeding motorcyclist on a Bangkok zebra crossing.
His other initiatives include the Emergency Alert website, designed to aid the evacuation of local residents after a chemical factory caught fire in Samut Prakan on Bangkok’s outskirts. The website helped ensure that locals moved to safety in time.
This tech wizard says that if he is elected councilor for Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, he will promote public participation in budget decisions.
“When I reach out to voters [during campaigning], I always ask them how they would like the 300 million to 400 million baht likely to be allocated to Bang Bon area to be spent,” Nitikorn said.
Elections in Bangkok were suspended for the last 12 years following the 2014 military coup and junta rule. When the council elections are held on May 22, nearly a quarter of eligible Bangkokians or 700,000 people will be first-time voters.
An estimated 10 million people live in the capital, but only 4.38 million are eligible to cast their ballot in the council election. The rest mainly hail from outside or are too young to vote.
There is one councilor seat up for grabs in each of Bangkok’s 50 districts. Once elected, the councilors will serve a four-year term and each earns 48,450 baht per month.
Bangkok councilors work like MPs, with the BMC being the capital’s equivalent of the House of Representatives.
Younger and better?
Thamon Jaruchan, 33, is another fresh face in the BMC election, running under the banner of the new Thai Sang Thai Party.
“I think I have an edge over my competitors because the party’s founder is veteran politician Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan,” Thamon said optimistically. “I’m also running in Klong Toei district, which is the stronghold of key party member and Bangkok governor candidate Sita Dhivari.”
When asked what she would do if elected, Thamon said she was determined to bring speed and efficiency to the role.
“Older people tend to do things step by step, but I think some work can be done quickly, and I will do that,” she said. “I also want to ensure projects are completed.”
Celebrity influencer and businesswoman Weeranund Sadakornwongwut, a 26-year-old graduate from the Chulalonglongkorn University’s Faculty of Arts, said it took her a long time to decide to join the race.
“I eventually opted to jump in because I really want to turn Vadhana district into a pilot area for people to show off their potential. The new generation will then feel inspired to create innovations for society,” she said. “I hope other than their everyday duties, Bangkok councilors will also be able to inspire residents to do something for their city.”
Weeranund is a candidate for the Ruam Thai United Party.
Fresh faces add color
Thipjutha Bunnag, 45, has entered the race as a Pheu Thai candidate and says she can feel the voters’ excitement.
“The upcoming councilor election will be the first in 12 years, so people are keen to go to the polling station. They are also enthusiastic about new choices and new candidates,” she said.
Though not that young, Thipjutha is certainly a new face in the race. Before becoming a candidate, she ran a tourism business. She drifted towards politics in 2019 when she agreed to help her older brother’s friend canvass for votes. Her performance caught Pheu Thai’s attention and it decided to field her as a candidate in Bangkok’s Bang Phlat district.
“I may not have extensive political experience but I am always ready to help. During the COVID-19 crisis, I was rushing from patient to patient to ensure everybody received the help they needed,” she said.
Thipjutha is now running her campaign in line with Pheu Thai Party’s slogan “Bangkok Bling”. With a focus on prosperity, Bangkok Bling seeks to leverage innovations and events to turn the capital’s 50 districts into 50 soft-power hubs. The party also aims to cap public transport fees at 30 baht per trip in a bid to encourage more people to leave their cars at home.
Old face for new gen
Thawat Sriwattanah, 45, was first elected as Bangkok councilor when he was 29. Now, despite the 12-year break in elections, he is keen to make a comeback. However, this time he’s running under the banner of Raks Krungthep, not the Democrat Party.
“I’m sick of so much politicking. My focus is not on national politics. I prefer to engage with locals in the Khlong San area,” he said. “I can work with any political figure because my bottom line is concern for the people.”
Asked about the new generation, Thawat said it was necessary that people’s representatives kept pace with the changing world. For example, to solve people’s problems, more channels should be provided to ensure that they have better access to state welfare.
“It will be even better if we can leverage our connections with partners, networks, and the private sector to provide help to those in need,” he added, citing the advantages of being older.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk