As one of the five core leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), MP Somkiat Pongpaiboon has the opportunity to work in both the political arena and the civil sector.
He talks to The Nation’s Budsarakham Sinlapalavan and Yvonne Yafen Zhou about the possibility of the PAD forming a new political party – and his political future.
Q : PAD supporters have set up three new political parties already. Why is there a need for the PAD to organise another?
A : The leaders of PAD have never reached any conclusions to establish those parties. Some groups of people registered those parties, which have been understood as belonging to the PAD. The names of those parties – Thien Haeng Dharma (Candle of Virtue), Prachaphiwat (Civil Revolution), and Phanthamit (Alliance) – suggest some connection to the PAD. But in fact PAD leaders had nothing to do with their establishment.
Q : As the PAD’s core leaders never wished to establish a political party, what are the reasons for the conference that will be held on May 24-25?
A : The conference aims to ask the people of PAD, first, if it is time for Thai society to establish a new political party. For a new political party – I am not referring to one to be set up by the PAD. If it is the right time, the PAD will be in charge of proposing the draft of related regulations and principles only. Second, PAD supporters will be asked about constitution amendment, revising the amnesty law, and the penalty of dissolving political parties.
However, the current trend of establishing a political party in the civil sector has gone beyond those questions. In some provinces, people have already voted on whether to let the PAD establish a political party. PAD leaders are aware that Thai society is heading for a dead-end corner and looking for a way out. Therefore, we intend to develop politics in a parallel way, namely in terms of both the civil sector and new politics by being a political party. Yet it does not mean we five leaders wish to be the founders of the political party.
Q : If PAD people vote for forming a political party, will the core leaders take executive positions in the party?
A : It should let the PAD assembly decide. Yet personally, I think the five core leaders should rather maintain their roles in the civic sector. They must think carefully about any proposal for them to become party executives. The core leaders won’t be able to have roles in both a new political party and in the civic sector. That’s unacceptable to the public and the PAD will see disunity at last.
Q : Will a PAD party be set up in time for a new general election?
A : That’s not the point. Our ultimate objective is not to set up a political party for the coming election, but to let it go naturally. If there is a new election soon, we won’t do it in time. But there’s no need for a rush.
Q : Should a PAD political party be established in time for the next election, will it vie for the same support base as the Democrat Party?
A : It is possible in some regions, among the middle class and the elite. However, the current government’s popularity will depend on its performance from now on till September.
Q : If a PAD party can be established, what rank will it be among the political parties of Thailand?
A : It may be impossible to compare with the other parties. The political party developing from the PAD will be one that comes from the masses; unlike other parties, it will not be established with capital from financial groups.
Q : PAD supporters have different viewpoints towards establishing a political party, which would reduce strength within [the movement.
A : Our way is to let PAD co-leader Piphob Thongchai make it clear for the masses via ASTV that, people who do not agree with the establishment of a political party can still support the civic movement, as before. The political sector is just a sub-set of the civic sector.
Q : It is said that political power is sweet. To what extent are you certain that the political party of PAD will not abuse the power once it is elected?
A : The leaders have discussed before, that the party’s committee members cannot be Parliament members or government ministers.
Q : What made you decide to be an MP even though you are already in the civil movement?
A : I thought of being a bridge linking the politics outside and inside Parliament. I have achieved my goal to a certain extent. However, the work in Parliament is not the way to solve the problems in Thailand. It is because the voting in Parliament does not benefit the ordinary people; indeed it is actually in the interest of politicians and their cohorts.
Q : As the PAD is going to vote for establishment of a political party, do you have any plans for your future in politics?
A : I would like to continue my civil movement as before. The experience as an MP has made me know that, working among the masses has more freedom than in Parliament. Yet if I decide to remain as a politician and contest the next election, I will remain with the Democrat Party. If I decide not to continue as a politician, I will return to work in the civic sector like before.