*The full interview can be found at this link.
The news was announced by key party member Korn Chatikavanij in Phuket on Saturday (Oct 9). Mr Korn, a former Democrat Party member who served as Finance Minister under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, was in Phuket to confirm Thames Kraitat as the Kla Party candidate for Phuket in the next general election.
In a special interview conducted by Sasinkarn Rungruangroj on behalf of The Phuket News*, Mr Korn explained, “Kla is a new party, It was formed last year. mostly by a variety of people with a shared goal, making Thai politics better, making Thailand a better place, creating good economic opportunities for all Thais, bringing wealth and increasing income for all ‒ and it is something that we think is missing from the Thai political scene and we want to give the people a better choice.”
Recognising that the two current MPs for Phuket both being representatives from the ruling Palang Pracharat Party, led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, asked what attributes the Kla Party was specifically looking for among candidates in Phuket, Mr Korn replied, “I think the main issue in the mind of Phuket residents is one concerning livelihood and quality of life in general.
“I think the past couple of years have been very hard on Phuket, so candidates that understand these issues, candidates that have something to say and a clear plan on how to alleviate the economic difficulties of Phuket citizens are the ones we want representing the Kla Party and I’m sure are the qualities that Phuket residents are looking for come the next general election.”
With the financial hardship suffered by Phuket people over the past two years clearly on the agenda, Mr Korn explained the Kla Party’s focus on alleviating that suffering. “I think the short term clearly Phuket lives and thrives with tourism. We need to get that back, and that basically is the development of the current programme, the Sandbox, into a full reopening of Phuket.
The quicker we can do that the quicker livelihoods will improve for Phuket residents,” he said.
“And the trigger to reopening clearly concerns health and safety issues, so the fact that Phuket residents are receiving a third shot of the vaccine is a good thing. I think that by the middle of this month I estimate that 50% of Phuket residents would have received their third shot. So we are moving towards a level when I think it would be safe for Phuket to reopen and go back to normality.”
Looking at the development of Phuket in the long term, Mr Korn noted, “In every aspect we want to take the opportunity to review what is good for Phuket in the long term, the type of tourists Phuket has. In my view Phuket is a premium world class destination. Everything Phuket has should be world class, the beaches and the people are already world class.
“I think we have to face the fact that the infrastructure broadly speaking is still substandard, care for the environment is still probably not as good as we would like to see to preserve what we have for future generations,” Mr Korn also noted.
“I think there’s a lot of work to do still to uplevel Phuket into a truly premium destination. There are also in my opinion other potential for Phuket especially for the young generation,” he said.
“I see Phuket in the future to take advantage fully of the ongoing work from home, or work away from home trend and develop Phuket into a tech hub, to develop Phuket into a hub for digital nomads from around the world to develop startups here, so I think there are a lot of opportunities.
“People have also been talking to me about opportunities for Phuket regarding even premium agriculture,” he added.
“The fact that Phuket has suffered during COVID from lack of food security, the fact that it needs to import virtually everything Phuket eats... I think that has reawakened some thought in Phuket developing IN [investment] in premium agriculture in order to support Phuket business and Phuket residents,” he said.
One critical question asked was about the Kla Party’s position on many Phuket people long calling for Phuket to be granted more autonomy in its own administration.
Key to that uprising in sentiment has been the feeling among many local residents witnessing years of what has appeared to be Bangkok-based decisions dismissing the island’s critical needs.
Asked whether he believes Phuket people should have more say in the political decisions that affect their lives and have an elected Governor, as they have in Pattaya, instead of an official appointed by the Ministry of Interior, Mr Korn replied, “100% I totally agree with that sentiment.”
“In fact two days ago we already announced that as our official stance, our official policy for Phuket, Phuket is more ready than any other province in Thailand for devolution,” Mr Korn noted.
“It should be able to elect at least its own Governor. The Governor should have power over the budget in order to ensure that everything that we have discussed just now regarding improving infrastructure quality is done for Phuket by the Phuket people. So, as I said, I fully agree with that and that will be official Pak Kla [Kla Party] policy,” he added.
In closing, Mr Korn was asked, in terms of improving the national economy, about his thoughts on the volume of trade already conducted with China, specifically Chinese companies and the Chinese government.
Asked whether he foresees greater trade with China, Mr Korn replied, “I think that is an inevitable trend as the Chinese economy grows. Its proximity to Thailand and the fact that the Chinese people appreciate Thai goods and services means that trade with China will grow, which is a good thing.
“We of course need to make sure that trade with China is fair and that Thais fully benefit with trade, with not just China, but [also] with everybody else ‒ that we get a good deal,” he said.
“I think it is of concern, not just in Phuket, but elsewhere in Thailand also, that a number of businesses are in Chinese hands, so we must make sure when Chinese do business with Thai companies that these companies as much as possible offer Thais [the type of trade deals] so Thais can receive full and fair benefit from that trade,” Mr Korn noted.
“So [Thailand will] continue to develop trade links with China, but make sure that it is the kind of trade that Thais benefit from,” he said.
* The Phuket News would like to extend our deep thanks to Sasinkarn Rungruangroj for conducting the interview on our behalf.