UTN deputy leader accused of taking King’s name in vain
Trairong's speech links King Rama IX and Shinawatra
A Saturday speech at an election rally by deputy UTN leader Trairong Suwankiri that referred to the Thai royal family has set a former election commissioner’s ears buzzing.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s brand new Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party (United Thai Nation/UTN) could be in trouble. The new political force is already looking somewhat slightly tarnished, as a senior PM Prayut supporter may have attracted the unwanted attention of the election commission.
Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, who served on the Election Commission (EC) from 2013 to 2018, said the UTN deputy leader’s speech in Nakhon Ratchasima may have broken the Commission’s Section 4 rule against involving royalty in election campaigns. Article 17 of Section 4 bans political parties from linking the royal family to campaigns.
This is more than just a rule in Thailand. The idea that the king is not involved in party politics is absolutely sacrosanct, and fundamental to the kingdom’s identity.
During his speech in the northeast on Saturday, Trairong told Korat locals that King Rama IX once said Thais should elect “good people”’ to govern them. He added that there’s no one better than jolly old “Uncle Tu” – PM Prayut’s nickname.
Having breached the sacred issues, the party chief then blundered straight on into embarrassment.
Trairong told his shocked gathering that if they wanted a good government in line with the late King Rama IX’s words, they should vote for “Thai Rak Thai.”
Those of you who are new to Thai politics will not recognise that Thai Rak Thai is the now-defunct party of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. On realising his mistake, Trairong muttered something which loosely translates as “I screwed up” as the audience gasped.
Somchai dismissed the Freudian slip but said that the mention of the late king could lead to trouble for the party.
“This is not a laughing matter. Trairong may have violated EC regulations, which could lead to the party’s dissolution if someone files a complaint.”
A complaint would seem quite likely.
UTN deputy leader Trairong quit the Democrat Party, where he had been deputy leader, to join the UTN in October last year. The UTN is led by another former Democrat MP, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.
In December, Prayut was appointed UTN candidate for PM in the upcoming general election, scheduled for May 7.
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