January 21, 2013 00:00 By Achara Deboonme, Chularat Sae
Phumtham Wechayachai, secretary-general of Pheu Thai Party, which runs the central government, wants to sell Bangkok voters on a practical strategy to improve their quality of life and make their city one of the world's leading capitals.
“Give us a chance,” he said.
“The race [for governor] is of great importance to the party since Bangkok is an integral part of the national economic and social development strategy. As the world is looking east and Bangkok stands to benefit from this chiefly through Pheu Thai’s infrastructure development policies, people in Bangkok have to realise the city has potential.
“Bangkok will be the regional centre linked to the world. To achieve this, seamless cooperation matters,” he said in an interview. “Like in water management, we have a national strategy but it can’t work at full efficiency without support from downstream Bangkok.”
To Phumtham, in charge of Pheu Thai's Bangkok election campaign, in a fast-changing world, Thailand is positioning itself as the centre of Asean, which is drawing global attention with its integration under the Asean Economic Community (AEC). Bangkok will be part of this and without its support, the national agenda may not be accomplished, he said. Bangkok couldn’t afford to be “left behind” just because its voters put political division ahead of “national interest”.
In regard to some voters’ belief that Bangkok should be supervised by the Democrats while Pheu Thai rules the country, he said the Democrats were active at both levels. At local government level, the Democrats command the majority of the Bangkok Metropolitan Council. If Pheu Thai’s choice, Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, is elected Bangkok governor, the council could play the opposition role.
Today, as Pongsapat will register as a candidate, he will unveil the first set of policies chiefly aimed at improving the quality of life and offering new opportunities.
The campaign plan, which has 12 points, is shaped by Pheu Thai’s four themes – connectivity, balance of life, resource allocation and preparation for the AEC.
For example, in connectivity, Bangkok would be the centre of the future high-speed train network. Commuters could travel from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in just 15 minutes, once it the line is done. And Bangkok would need a transit system that could serve mounting demand.
“This is not a political ambush policy to take control of the national government and the Bangkok administration. Under our master plan, Bangkok is the centre of everything and its prosperity will be shared by everyone in the country, so it’ll be easier if the Bangkok governor comes from the same party.
“Hindrances are promised if the national and local governments don’t share the same concept,” he said.
The campaign policies are geared towards everybody living and working in Bangkok, including the four to five million voters, residents of neighbouring provinces who work in Bangkok and foreign workers. Like at the national level, where the needs and demands of people in each province differ, Pheu Thai also sees different needs for people in different Bangkok districts.
Diverse policies are designed to support Bangkok’s future as a key Asian metropolis, through surveys and focus group meetings. Like at the national level, residents and non-residents would be offered new opportunities.
Voting for Pongsapat is like voting for Pheu Thai, as all parts of the party are ready to help his promises materialise. He stands a chance, Phumtham said. Bangkok has been run by Democrat governors for eight years. Bangkok people will have to ask themselves if they are happy with their performance. Pheu Thai deserves victory if voters share the idea Bangkok must change, he added.
New to politics, Pongsapat could learn to overcome weak points and work with Pheu Thai. Democrat candidate MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra appears to have the upper hand as he has more information on Bangkok. Yet, Pongsapat offers a fresh approach for voters who may be dissatisfied.
“Give us a chance,” said Phumtham. “We want to win the Bangkok governor race. Higher efficiency will gear Bangkok and the entire country towards the better future. Pheu Thai comes as the second in Bangkok, but we can prove that we can offer the capital city new opportunities. In this fast-changing world, Bangkok must change and time doesn’t wait.”