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Candidates for FTI chair both promise to promote unity

Despite candidates for the position of Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) chairman vowing to work with each other in the future, allegations of irregularity in the process of electing the chairman selection committee might cloud such collaboration.

The two candidates for the chairmanship of the Federation of Thai Industries have agreed to work together to promote unity within the organisation.

The FTI held an annual meeting yesterday at which 2,723 of its 4,800 eligible members elected 232 chairman-selection commissioners, who will vote alongside 116 appointed commissioners on April 8 for the new chairman.

The official result of the election of these 232 commissioners will be announced today.

Judging from previous FTI elections, the make-up of the selection commission can usually foretell who the next chairman will be, since it is normally a two- or three-horse race and the majority of the 348 selection commissioners will be the ones deciding who is going to win the contest. This year there are two candidates: Supan Mongkolsuthee, president of Synnex (Thailand), with most of the major manufacturing companies on his side, and Visit Limprana, chairman of the FTI's Food Processing Club, who has the support of provincial small and medium-sized enterprises.

The FTI has been suffering a rift for the past two years due to difference of opinion on the increase in the minimum wage to Bt300 a day nationwide and alleged corruption in the organisation's budgeting.

Sacrifice and respect

Current chairman Payungsak Chartsutipol said before yesterday's meeting that he wanted all sides to work together with sacrifice and respect in order to connect all the industries together without discrimination.

"They have to work together to complete the supply chain, and if they can work together, it will be beneficial for the country's economy and its competitiveness," he said. "If large businesses and SMEs can work together, it will end the current conflict and obstacles within the organisation, and this unity will help all industries achieve sustainable growth together."

Supan said he was confident he would win the election because many members of his industrial group attended the annual meeting.

He said that if he won, he would consult with Visit to find out how they can collaborate and work together, while revealing that his main policy was to unite large corporations with SMEs.

"Large corporations have to help SMEs. I have spoken to many larger companies on this matter and they are willing to help by agreeing to provide teams of consultants to set up workshops and provide extra training for employees of the smaller companies," he said.

"SMEs within their own provinces should also work together in order to enhance the corporations and strength of their business cluster group," Supan added.

Visit also said he was willing to work with all sides no matter the result of the election. He was still confident he could win the chairmanship because of the higher number of provincial SME members who joined the annual meeting this year.

He said the most urgent internal issue that the FTI had to fix was to simulate growth of the industrial groups, especially SMEs, through increased cooperation between large and small businesses.

For medium-sized businesses, Visit said he would continue to encourage them to expand through export to neighbouring countries and border trade.

"The industries need stimulation because of the reduced demand that was brought on by the sluggish economy," he said.

"I have similar ideas as my [opponent], that we have to work together to increase the strength of the organisation, and we have agreed on the basis that whoever wins will lead and the defeated will follow and supplement," Visit added.

Irregularities claimed

Supan assured the media that the voting process was transparent and his victory was not in doubt.

"At this moment, I am confident that I will win the election by a landslide with no less than 500 points above my opponent," he said.

"I am confident of the votes from the SMEs because I started my business as an SME and almost all of the industrial groups support me."

However, there were allegations from the representatives of Visit's team helping count the votes that they had evidence of two persons who had cast ballots in place of eligible voters.

The Visit team also alleged that the two non-eligible members had close ties to Supan.

Chiwat Withit-Thammawong, chairman of the Tak provincial branch of the FTI and a member of the of Visit's vote-counting team, said he wanted to see the election voided.

"We will also hand the case to the Criminal and Administrative courts," Chiwat said.

But Supan insisted: "The voting process is transparent because there are rules and regulations at each step of the procedure.

"The alleged error and the irregularity might be because some companies unwittingly failed to change the names of their respective representatives."


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