Banking on glamour to win seats
Numerous celebrities have signed up as candidates in a star-laden campaign
Dozens of celebrities are running in the December 23 election in the hope that fame might help them get into Parliament. The new Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana Party is regarded as a party of celebrities.
Sanchai Engtrakul, a Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana candidate, said having celebrities run in the election might be one of the strategies of new parties. “My party wants to see a new generation of politicians showing a greater performance for the public,” he said.
“The election is upon us and it is not easy to beat rivals from the Democrats and People Power. Therefore, I have to find a way to make people remember us,” he said.
Sanchai, the son of Finance Ministry permanent secretary Somchainuk Engtrakul, is running for a Bangkok seat. He is married to actress Thanyares Ramnarong.
In his campaign, besides key party members, his wife and other celebrities are also helping him.
Kasemsant Weerakun, another Bangkok candidate for Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, admitted that his fame has helped him because voters know him from TV shows.
Before turning to politics, he had been vice president for corporate communications of Thai Beverage, the maker of Chang beer, and he also used to be a TV anchor.
However, he denied it was a strategy of the party to field well-known candidates. “I don’t know if other parties do this but it is not our strategy,” he said.
“But even celebrities won’t gain more advantage than ordinary candidates if they are not smart, as people will not vote for them,” he added.
Apart from Sanchai and Kasemsant, ML Natthaphol Devakula, the nephew of former Bank of Thailand governor MR Pridiyathorn, is running in Bangkok constituency 1.
The Pracharaj Party of Snoh Thienthong is the choice of veteran actor Sombat Methanee, a former Bangkok senator. After the coup, Sombat was chosen as a member of the National Legislative Assembly.
He decided to run under the Pracharaj banner as a party-list candidate for constituency 6 (Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan).
The newly formed Puea Pandin Party has attracted a number of athletes. Former boxer Sura Saenkham, or Khaosai Galaxy, is running in Zone 2, while boxer Wichai Rachanont, a bronze medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is running in Bangkok’s constituency 5.
Former senator Nitiphoom Navaratna and his son Netiphoom have also joined the party. Earlier, Netiphoom had announced he would run in Bangkok for People Power, but later changed his mind as he had been a member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy which campaigned to oust former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Veteran actors who have joined the Puea Pandin include Nat Puwanai and Kowit Watanakul, both contesting seats in Chaiyaphum.
Matchima Thipataya is fielding veteran actor Dam Daskorn and actress Supaporn Saengthong in Bangkok. Boonyasit Thammarojpinij, son of mogul Paijit (or Por Pratunam), is a debutant in the election. He has never been involved in politics before. Boonyasit is the husband of former pop singer Nuk Sutthida.
Veteran singer Surachai Sombatcharoen, son of Suraphol, Thailand’s all-time king of country music, is contesting in Bangkok’s constituency 9.
For the Democrats, Boonyod Sukthinthai is contesting the election after failing to win a senatorial seat, while Malika Boonmetrakul has received a chance to run in her hometown of Phayao. Malika was a candidate for Mahachon in the last election, but failed to win a seat.
The PAD camp is led by Somkiart Pongpaiboon who heads the party list for group 5. Praphan Koonme and Samran Rodphet are running for Bangkok seats.
The People Power Party has also become a home to some entertainers. Former actor Pakdeeharn Himathongkham has been given a chance by the party, as has former singer Arisman Pongruangrong, who left the musical field when the Thai Rak Thai Party was born. Arisman was a party-list MP, but in this election he will run in a constituency.
Veteran actor Krung Sriwilai and actress Leelawadee Watcharobol have also joined the party to contest the poll. In the South, actor Prompong Noparit has decided to run in Phang Nga.
Former newscaster Suprat Nakbunnam has joined the race to take over from her friend Sansanee Nakpong, who has been banned from politics. Former singer Pornpimol Thammasarn is running for a seat in Pathum Thani.