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Democrats pitch to reclaim Phuket

PHUKET: Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit was in Phuket yesterday (Jan 29) for a campaign event to present the party’s three Phuket candidates for the upcoming national election in May.

By The Phuket News

Monday 30 January 2023, 11:33AM

The event saw the 4,000-seat Indoor Sports Centre filled to capacity.

Jurin, who also serves as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce as well as leader of the Democrat Party, was joined on stage by party secretary Chalermchai Sri-on and party deputy leader Niphon Boonyamanee.

Present to provide her support for the event was long-standing Phuket Democrat and former Phuket MP Anchalee Thepabutr.

The event saw three candidates presented to Democrat supporters.

Former Phuket Town Deputy Mayor Kawee Tansuktanon was presented as the candidate for Phuket District 1. Chaiyot Panyawai, who has served two terms as President of the Phuket branch of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, was presented as the candidate for Phuket District 2. Former Wichit council member Ploy Laksmi-saengchan was presented as the candidate for Phuket District 3.

Of note, Phuket has previously had only two seats available for Members of Parliament.

The two current Members of Parliament representing Phuket are Sutha ‘Goh Tui’ Pratheep Na Thalang and Nattee Thinsakhu. Both are representatives from the ruling military-aligned Palang Pracharath Party led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. They were elected to office in 2019.

The Phuket office of the Election Commission of Thailand (PEC, or ECT Phuket) has yet to confirm that Phuket will have three MP seats up for grabs at the upcoming election in May.

Of note, two key laws regulating elections were brought into effect only yesterday (Jan 29), and the Election Commission of Thailand has been granted extra time to bring the changes into effect.

“First of all, I would like to thank my brothers and sisters from Phuket and Southern Thailand who have come to support us a lot. The old atmosphere that the Phuket people used to support the Democrat Party is back again,” Jurin said at Saphan Hin yesterday.

“As for the three candidates from Phuket, we have a lot of confidence in them, because all three have been in the area for a long time,” he said.

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“Today we have officially entered into election preparation mode and we are ready to go to the polls on any day, regardless of whether the House of Representatives is dissolved on Mar 23 [which may affect when the national election may be held],” Jurin added.

“In the South, we have had a better response [recently]. This can be seen from the last two by-elections. The Democrat Party was elected in both Chumphon and Songkhla provinces.

“In many provinces, we are ready, including the 14 Southern provinces. In the upcoming election, we have 58 seats in the southern region [to be contested]. We are confident that we will gain more trust from the people, especially in Phuket where we are confident that we will have all three candidates,” Jurin concluded.

Up until the surprise election result in 2019 that saw two military-aligned candidates elected as Phuket MPs, Phuket had for decades remained a Democrat stronghold. Much support remains for Democrats in Phuket, but at a local level.

Highlighting that support was the election of Rewat Areerob, another former Phuket MP Democrat, to the position of President of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) by a large margin in the provincial election on Dec 21, 2020.

However, the Democrat Party has suffered repeatedly in public incidents in recent years. In April last year, former Democrat Secretary-General Suthep Thaugsuban urged the party’s executive committee to show responsibility for the sexual misconduct accusations against its disgraced former deputy leader, Prinn Panitchpakdi, to restore public confidence in the party.

Prinn faces charges in three cases: one for alleged indecent exposure and two for alleged rape. 

Pol Maj Gen Trairong Phiewphan, Bangkok Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs, last year confirmed that the indecent exposure case dated back to 2016.

Prinn was also accused of raping a woman in a condominium on Rat Damri 14 road in 2015 and another woman at a hotel in 2016, Maj Gen Trairong said.

Jurin himself came under fire for his public response over the Prinn rape scandal, with his public handling of the incident resulting in key Democrat members resigning from the party.

Jurin initially did not even apologise for the incident. He later gave a public apology, and resigned from several key government committees, including his position as head of two government panels on women and gender policies.

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