CAN YOU TELL US BRIEFLY ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I hail from Bangkok’s Taling Chan district. I am a farmer, a stock grower. As I helped my family with the work, I also got to go to school and managed to graduate from the Faculty of Law and Masters of Political Science from Thammasat University. In the 1990s, when I was about 40 years old, I ran for election as a member of the Palang Dharm Party led by Maj-General Chamlong Srimuang, but lost. So I changed course and developed the Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. I developed this community and improved it.
WHY ARE YOU RETURNING TO POLITICS?
The country has undergone some changes in the past four years under the rule of the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO]. The new Constitution has already been promulgated and the election is going to be held soon. So, I discussed that with friends and old colleagues. These are experienced people who have been senators and members of the House of Representatives.
We have been in politics. We thought we should come back in a new form to try to prevent the country from going back to the old vicious cycle of chaos and violence. We cannot wait anymore.
WHO ARE THE CORE LEADERS IN THE PALANG PRACHA RATH GROUP?
We now have 18 members gathered to register with the Election Commission. We’re just ordinary people. If we have high-profile people, they may have some issues and may not pass the initial qualifications. We’ll see after the registration is completed who else we have in the party.
ARE YOU AWARE THAT THE NAME OF YOUR PARTY IS IDENTICAL TO THE GOVERNMENT’S GRAND SCHEME LAUNCHED LAST YEAR?
Yes. But Pracha Rath is not a new word or concept. We thought hard about this. We think the name represents that the people and the state must join forces. Both are equally important in bringing about new politics.
It is the same with government policy. That is great so voters can be familiar with the name.
PEOPLE SAY YOURS IS A MILITARY PARTY. WILL THERE BE MANY MILITARY OFFICERS OR FORMER SOLDIERS IN THE PARTY?
People can say what they wish, but I want to say that so far there are no military officers joining us. We have only applied for registration. We do not have any soldiers. We don’t want to invite anyone now because they may not be sure yet.
Being a soldier is just another occupation. We don’t discriminate against them. They stage coups and are dictatorial? We cannot make such an inference. It’s not fair to them. People can be dictators regardless of their occupations. There is nothing bad about being in the military that we have to repulse them. They are not murderers. They can be in politics if people accept them.
However, we are more focused at the moment on the registration of the party name. We hope it passes and we can go on to the other steps.
HAVE YOU APPROACHED ANYONE TO JOIN YOUR PARTY?
Once the registration is done, we welcome everyone. I don’t want to invite anyone. I’ll let them decide. Not only General Prayut [Chan-o-cha], but everyone.
WILL THIS PARTY SUPPORT GENERAL PRAYUT IN THE NEXT ELECTION?
I don’t want to answer this question. PM Prayut has not yet responded to any invitation. It is up to him. But we have to discuss the matter in the party. Maybe some members don’t like that. So, it is the best that we wait for his response. Maybe he’ll decide to join some other party.
But I want to emphasise hate speech. Some people say we support dictatorship. This is an accusation. Is Prayut that bad? I don’t think so. We have to stop this hate speech or good people will not dare to enter politics.
HOW WILL YOU POSITION PRAYUT IN THE PARTY?
I don’t want to talk about that. He has neither accepted nor rejected the invitation. We will let him decide. And I don’t want anyone to take this issue seriously.
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN PRAYUT THAT MAKES YOU WANT HIM IN THE PARTY?
We see his work. He has done so much, so many initiatives, the reforms. It may not be perfect but he still does a lot. Most importantly, I’m happy he has stopped the violence in the past four years.
ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING THE VOTES OF PEOPLE WHO DISLIKE PRAYUT?
It’s okay. It is democracy. If you don’t like him, that’s fine. Just don’t use hate speech. Instead of seeing this as him clinging to power, why don’t you see that he could continue his work.