Democrat admits Suthep might inspire party defections in South

politics February 26, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

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THE DEMOCRAT Party’s support base in the South may be affected by a new political party that will be set up by Suthep Thaugsuban, who was previously a key Democrat politician, according to a deputy party leader.



Nipit Intarasombat, the Democrat deputy leader in charge of the South, said yesterday the party obviously had the same support base as Suthep and his People’s Democratic Reform Foundation.

“We share the same support base, so the party will be partially affected,” Nipit said.

He also said a number of Democrat politicians had worked with Suthep when his group was known as the People’s Democratic Reform (PDRC), adding that many of those Democrats would probably join Suthep’s new party.

The PDRC, in which Suthep served as secretary-general, held street rallies against the former government of Yingluck Shinawatra, drawing support from thousands of people. The protests continued for many months, with the subsequent political confrontations leading to the military coup in May 2014. After the coup, the PDRC ostensibly became a charity foundation led by Suthep.

Suthep recently said his group would set up a new political party primarily to support Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as premier after the next election.

Nipit said yesterday that unlike the PDRC, the Democrat Party backed its current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to become prime minister after the election. The Democrat Party has traditionally dominated constituencies in the southern provinces and often won most contested MP seats in the region. The PDRC also has many supporters in the South.

Abhisit yesterday said he was not concerned that a number of Democrat politicians might defect to join Suthep’s new party.

“They have the right to decide if they want to stay with the Democrat Party or not. But so far, no party members have resigned,” Abhisit said, adding that the party has been firm with its long-held principles and ideology.

The Democrat leader yesterday also called on the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to relax its rules on political gatherings, which were perceived as obstacles for politicians’ activities. Suspending the ban on political activities would also prevent political conflicts, he added.

Abhisit, a former prime minister, also asked the ruling junta to heed the opinions of different groups of people. He added that he did not think doing so would result in the government’s stability being undermined. “It’s just the opinions of some groups of people,” he said.

“Also, the government needs to maintain the credibility of the road map,” Abhisit said, referring to the government’s timetable for the next election.

There have been frequent changes to the scheduling of the original post-coup road map to an election, with critics pointing out that the delays enabled the NCPO to remain in power for a longer duration.