'Forest protector' aiming at politicsFormer chief wants to continue fight over park lands
Former National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department director-general Damrong Pidet, a founding member of Thai Forest Land Reclamation Party - known for his impulsive nature - has opened up on why he went back on his word and jumped into politics after retiring.
What is the reason behind your deciding to establish a political party?
I thought that I would open a shop to sell noodles after I retired - but two months after my retirement, no one had been appointed to continue my projects. All my projects had been suspended. There was no reason to suspend my action against illegal activities. That is why I have decided to set up a party to continue my work.
Why didn't you apply as a member of a large party in order that it could push your policies through Parliament?
So you were uncomfortable working with the government?
I was uneasy because I had no equipment to properly manage the work. I was trying to do the right thing but I met with obstacles. My work went against the ruling party's policy of not arresting [lawbreakers] but giving [them] leniency.
Critics say you ordered resorts to be dismantled to pave a way for yourself to enter politics after retiring.
If I'd wanted to go into politics, I would have done anything to join the ruling party.
But no party wanted me because they knew I would be a thorn in their sides.
Your decision to set up a party has nothing to do with your disappointment over not getting the political posts you wanted?
I would have regretted if I could not continue my work in forest conservation, so I consulted my friends on how to set up a party.
Do you have a party financier?
Nobody. Our party is one which some people want to stampede because we are in the way of their interests. Large parties do not want to quarrel with people fearing they would lose support, but our party does not care.
How do you foresee your party developing?
How long the party is sustainable depends on the party's executives.
If we can protect natural resources and the public sees our achievements, we can survive in the long term and become a big party in the future.
Those who do not like our policy of environmental conservation, they will not vote for me.
We have nothing to lose if we are dissolved because no one votes for us. The party's demise or death would be normal.
How can your party compete with large parties when you only have one policy - on environmental conservation?
No party pays attention to natural resources and environment. Of 500 MPs, no one cares about forests and wildlife.
Who are your supporters?
Most are conservationists in every region of the country. We are like a thread which will be |strong when we all come together as one.
How do you feel as a fresh-faced politi?cian?
I actually do not want to be called a politician because I think politicians are slippery. I like being a bureaucrat, but I will have to adjust my style.
How do you see yourself working with the new director-general of the department, Manopat Huamuangkaeo?
I follow my path and he follows his. If we have to fight, we fight, though we are friends.
He is an official - but if he commits wrong, I will fight with the public sector.
Will there be more exposing of irregularities in projects?
Do not use the word expose - but whatever is a threat against natural resources and the environment, we will fight against it. We will not touch on things we don’t have any knowledge about.