'People were disappointed in us'
Chaturon Chaisang, who recently became the Thai Rak Thai Party's acting leader, spoke to our Political Desk yesterday about his new role and the party's future.
New leader: ‘We have to create the party as an institution that can carry on.’
Why did you decide to accept this post?
It is not frightening or threatening. We were without a head after former leader Thaksin Shinawatra resigned. When number two Sudarat [Keyuraphan] refused to take over as the leader, I was the next in line. It came to me that if I didn't accept the post, our members around the country would be disappointed.
We have to keep the party because it is a political tool to fight for democracy.
What are your urgent tasks? We will have to manage under the party rules as well as we can. However, after a new executive board is selected, the party's next step is to set out our clear standpoint to the public. Earlier we told people that we would adhere to democracy. The party will not participate in any assembly or activity involving the current administration. Yet we will join up with them if we see that it is set on democracy.
Do other party members agree with your idea?
I don't know, because we have many members [across the country]. However, the party's key figures have supported the idea. The clinging to democracy and harmony are the main issues that we talked about before I would accept the post.
Did you agree to lead the party for the long term?
I have to consider some factors including asking the party executives [about this]. However, I believe they will have to see my performance while I am acting [leader]. However, I believe I am a choice [to be party leader] if the executive meeting will get to choose. But I believe many key party [people] should be [the party leader] too. It depends on the party executives who vote to choose.
What will you do with Thai Rak Thai when the general perception is that it is Thaksin's party? We'll take time to prove that [it's not]. With [Thaksin] gone we have to prove that the remaining people can turn the party into a political institution. Today our party is facing a democratic examination [of whether] we can be a political institution or not. I can't answer that because it depends on our members and some key people who are prepared to work with the party.
Do you think you can change Thai Rak Thai from facing a crisis to gaining an advantage?
I think so. We must pass it. Amid the political crisis we have to create our party as an institution in order for the next generation to carry on. Therefore, our new executive board must especially create policies which can be improved, and some policies that might be continued.
What can you do when the party does not have a lot of money, as it had in the past?
We should consider other factors besides a budget. What is the main factor that caused Thai Rak Thai to become the ruling party? I can't deny that the former leader was a billionaire, but he also had potential. Nonetheless, a factor that we have to talk about is party policy. Before the election in 2001, Thai Rak Thai surveyed people and set up a party campaign. But, people were disappointed with the last government and now want to see a new party to solve their problems. Therefore, Thai Rak Thai is an alternative.
But Thai Rak Thai policies are being scrutinised by the interim government?
It is a minister's business that each has to explain themselves. I don't believe our policies led to corruption. It depends on the operators. But the party can only defend itself for allegedly hiring smaller parties in the April election, which was later nullified by the courts.
Are you concerned about the party dissolving?
Yes, but I believe in justice. We will accept the court verdict on whether the party will be dissolved. I don't think the [coup makers'] order to punishexecutives of dissolved political parties will have a retroactive effect.
Do you feel isolated in your new job? Not at all, but it might be hard to be among people who think differently. However, I believe if we stand on the right principles and are determined I won't feel that.