Former House of Representative speaker Wan Muhammad Noor Matha has been elected leader of Prachachat, a new party formed by Muslim politicians of the Wadah group.
Wan was chosen by the 500 members meeting at the Pattani campus of Prince of Songkhla University on Saturday.
He vowed that the party would not be simply “region-based”, but rather present a genuine alternative for voters.
“We chose the southern border province to introduce our party because we believe Thailand is not just Bangkok but every province,” Wan said.
But the party’s main goal was to bring unity, reconciliation and peace to the strife-torn deep South, he said.
He expressed confidence that the party would win seats in the coming general election.
Areepen Uttarasin and former Football Association of Thailand chief Worawi Makudi were elected as deputy leaders.
Pol General Tawee Sodsong, former secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, who played a leading role in peace talks with southern insurgents during the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, was chosen as the party’s secretary-general.
Tawee said Prachachat would promote a “multicultural society” for the nation and pay attention to minority voices.
Areepen said the party’s membership represented a diverse group of people with different backgrounds in terms of their native lands, cultures, careers and experiences, but who share a strong ideological commitment to promote democratic politics.
“We aim to build ‘Prachachat’ – ‘nation of the people’,” he said.
“‘Nation’ here refers to a society of multiple cultures, where people with different perspectives can live together peacefully and equally.”
Wadah, whose base is in the three southernmost border provinces, began as a faction of the New Aspiration Party co-founded by Wan and veteran Pattani politician Den Tomeena.
The NAP then merged with Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party, which became the Pheu Thai Party, but Wadah’s members defected from Pheu Thai in April.
Other members joined the Matubhum Party formed by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin as premier.