Chalermchai vows to turn Democrats into ‘strong’ opposition

Chalermchai vows to turn Democrats into 'strong' opposition

Chalermchai vows to turn Democrats into 'strong' opposition
FILE PHOTO: Chalermchai Sri-on, right, stands next to former Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit in a party meeting in Bangkok in July. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Chalermchai Sri-on, the newly elected leader of the Democrat Party, has vowed to make an all-out effort to transform the party into a strong opposition.

On Sunday, the 9th leader in the 77-year history of the Democrats, Thailand’s oldest political party, posted a video on Facebook with the following message:

“I have both good news and bad news. The good news is I congratulate everyone who has been elected to the party’s executive committee. The bad news is that all of you must work hard, starting from today.

“I would like to give an assurance that this executive committee will adhere to the “ideology” and “principles” of the Democrat Party.

“The Democrat Party will never be ‘a spare part’ for any party.

“It is important for the Democrat Party to start moving immediately. I will make an all-out effort to make the Democrat Party a ‘strong’ and ‘solid’ opposition.”

The Democrat Party had failed twice in a bid to elect a new executive committee, including a new leader, due to the lack of quorum and internal rifts.

However, the party managed to overcome the hurdles in a third bid on Sunday, when Mr Chalermchai was chosen unopposed as the new party leader along with the new executive committee.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former party leader, was nominated by former party leader Chuan Leekpai as a candidate. But Mr Abhisit withdrew his candidacy and announced his resignation as a party member.

Watanya Bunnag, alias Madame Dear, was also nominated as a contender. The meeting was asked to waive the regulation requiring a candidate to be a party for at least five years. But Ms Wantaya failed to get enough votes to support the waiver.

Sathit Pitutecha, a former deputy leader of the party, also announced his resignation as a party member after Mr Chalermchai was elected as the new leader.

It was believed many other leading members of the party would follow suit.

Mr Chuan, a party list MP, said Mr Sathit’s resignation was unexpected. He said Mr Sathit initially said he would not attend the meeting on Sunday, reasoning that the votes had been fixed in Mr Chalermchai’s favour, but did attend after Mr Chuan asked him to.

But Mr Sathit attended the meeting only to announce his resignation, said Mr Chuan.

Mr Chuan said he was concerned about the party’s commitment – in place for 77 years – to adhere to clean politics and honesty.

“The Democrat Party has been recognised as a political institution not because it has long been in existence but because of its principles.

“Since all past leaders of the party adhered to honesty and won acceptance from the people, and the new leader has vowed to follow suit, I would like the new executive committee to watch out as there have been rumours that the Democrat Party would side with the government,” Mr Chuan said.

Mr Chuan said he was not happy when some Democrat MPs voted in support of Srettha Thavisin for prime minister in violation of a party resolution.

Asked whether he would stay with the Democrat Party despite the turbulence, Mr Chuan said: “I am not going anywhere. No matter what, I will stay put. I am indebted to the party. I have got what I have now by being with the party. The party has given me opportunities. It is where I was elected party leader after being considered a person who was good enough for the position. I am obligated to repay this debt in the last chapter of my political career.”