2007-08-24 11:43:55 –
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) – Outspoken veteran politician Samak Sundaravej has become leader of a party widely seen as a replacement for deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party in order to contest Thailand’s first post-coup election.
The People’s Power Party is considered the vehicle for Thaksin’s followers to take part in the upcoming polls, expected this December.
The Thai Rak Thai party was disbanded by court order in May for electoral fraud last year, and Thaksin himself has been in exile since being ousted by a coup d’etat last September, and is barred from politics, as are more than 100 top members of his former party.
The 72-year-old Samak _ who held several ministerial posts and was once governor of Bangkok _ won enough votes to become the party’s new leader at a meeting Friday, said Suthep Saikrachang, its spokesman.
Samak is widely known as a veteran right-wing politician who was a staunch denouncer of left-leaning student activists and communism in the 1970s. He has softened his image a bit since then by becoming a well-known cat fancier and celebrity chef, but continues to have a knack for making controversial remarks.
Samak said he joined the People’s Power Party because Thaksin has been treated unfairly by the military and the military-installed interim government, which has been trying to erase his political legacy.
Thaksin, a billionaire politician, led Thai Rak Thai to win two landslide election victories and held power in 2001-06 before public demonstrations in Bangkok calling for him to step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power led to his ouster by the military.
Samak, who is also a media commentator, angered the military last year when he criticized the king’s top adviser _ respected former army commander and prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda _ for making a speech critical of Thaksin. The incident forced Samak to quit two television shows he had hosted.
Suthep said that thousands of former Thai Rak Thai members joined the little-known party since a court decision in May to disband it.
Nearly 300 former members of parliament from Thai Rak Thai joined the party, signaling that the party was angling to win a substantial number in the next polls, slated for the second half of December.
Last Sunday, Thailand held a national referendum on the military-backed constitution _ a step paving the way for the upcoming elections.
The constitution was approved by about 57 percent of voters nationwide, with about 41 percent voting against it. A majority of voters in the poor agricultural northeast _ Thaksin’s political stronghold _ rejected the draft.
Critics say the result showed that the country remains divided and Thaksin still maintains strong influence, particularly among rural voters.
Several government agencies backed by the military have been investigating charges of corruption during Thaksin’s administration. A court last week issued arrest warrants for him and his wife, now living in England.
The government says it is preparing to seek his extradition, while Thaksin said he would be ready to return to face legal charges when the country returns to democracy.
Former Bangkok governor to lead People’s Power Party
17:02, August 24, 2007
Former Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej was elected as the leader of the People’s Power Party ( PPP) at a general assembly of the Party in Bangkok on Friday.
After a heated debate between Samak and Karn Tienkaew, chairman of the advisory board of the PPP, party members voted in favor of Samak.
Samak, who received 80 out of 113 votes, said after the victory that he will repair a “roof” of a party that has been under attack in the past five years.
The People’s Power Party was reborn from the ashes of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai party. After the Constitution Tribunal dissolved Thai Rak Thai for electoral fraud charges last May, a majority of party members moved to the PPP to contest in the upcoming election.
Samak said he decided to re-enter politics because he wanted to restore democracy after ousted prime minister Thaksin faces accusations for abuse of power.
Allies of ousted Thai PM Thaksin choose former Bangkok mayor to lead new party
Published : Fri, 24 Aug 2007 10:10
By : Agencies
Financial) – Allies of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday elected an outspoken former Bangkok mayor to lead their new party as the nation gears up for elections promised by the year’s end.
Samak Sundaravej, a veteran lawmaker who has frequently clashed with the royalist elite in the military, was elected as leader of the People Power Party.
It was just a tiny fringe group until four weeks ago when 300 of Thaksin’s allies joined and turned it into a vehicle for them to contest the elections expected in December.
The Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party, which Thaksin founded and led to two sweeping election victories, was disbanded by a military-appointed court in May.
‘I don’t care if people think that I am a Thaksin nominee, but I will make this party strong within one year in order to restore democracy,’ Samak told reporters.
‘I am volunteering to repair the leaky roof on our democracy, which was destroyed by the military. Now it’s up to voters to decide which party they want to support,’ he said.
Thaksin is currently living in exile in London and faces corruption charges if he returns to Thailand.
Samak’s previous opponents include former prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda, who is the top adviser to Thailand’s king.
Samak has supported previous military dictatorships but was a popular elected governor of Bangkok and, while Thaksin was prime minister, sided with him in his feuds with Prem.
Thaksin’s allies accuse Prem of masterminding the coup that ousted him last September.
Surapong Suebwonglee, who was the spokesman for Thaksin’s government, was named People Power’s secretary general.
He said 270 former TRT lawmakers had now joined the party.
‘The People Power Party will inherit all of Thai Rak Thai’s ideology and policies,’ Surapong said.
People Power also won a surprising recruit, the former supreme commander of the military, General Ruengroj Mahasaranond.
He held the largely ceremonial post of supreme commander when tanks rolled through the streets of Bangkok on September 19, 2006.
Ruengroj finally went along with the coup after a meeting with Sonthi and Prem. He took mandatory retirement two weeks later and until now had largely stayed out of the public eye.
He was named as one of the People Power Party’s deputy leaders.
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