Top politicians resign from Democrat Party as pressure mounts for changing of guard

Deputy Prime Minister Wittaya Kaewparadai. Credit: Wikimedia

Top members of Thailand’s beleaguered Democrat Party have resigned in the wake of a sex scandal that’s rocked that party in recent weeks. Senior politician Kanok Wongtrangan announced on Facebook today that he has quit his role as a deputy leader in the party out of “moral conscience”.

His resignation follows that of deputy prime minister Wittaya Kaewparadai, who resigned from the party on Friday, citing the ongoing sex scandal involving another former deputy leader, Prinn Panitchpakdi, whom many women have accused of sexual assault and rape.

Kanok said that he decided to reign because the party’s response to the sex scandal has failed to meet the expectations of the public, who have questioned the executive committee’s moral accountability. His statements echo those of Wittaya, who on Friday warned the party’s executive committee that it must do more to restore the party’s image, which has been seriously tarnished by the allegations. His solution? Resign.

On April 14, Prinn resigned from his post as deputy leader and gave up his party membership in order to fight claims of sexual assault filed against him.

So far, at least 18 women have filed an avalanche of sexual assault allegations against the politician. Some cases date back to his time in the UK and include allegations of rape. Prinn resigned after his first accuser, an 18 year old woman, filed a complaint with police earlier this month. Since then, many more women have come out to accuse him of sexual assault.

Wittaya, who is himself a former deputy leader, is also a former MP, health minister and government chief whip. He said that he’s been a member of other political parties in Thailand, but that he’s been most loyal to the Democrat Party. He said that although the party has had its ups and downs, the current sex scandal is “especially ruinous”.

According to Wittaya, now the executive committee needs to show that ethical standards supersede the law. He said the executive committee should be held accountable “because it is they who brought Prinn into the party in the first place”, even though they technically hadn’t done anything wrong.

Wittaya said he might return if the party undergoes major changes. If not, then Thailand’s oldest political party would have “no future”. According to him, someone must be held accountable for how the party handles the scandal, ThaiPBS reported. For many observers, that someone is Jurin Laksanawisit, who earlier said he would not resign from his post as leader of the Democrat Party.

Speaking to reporters after the Democract Party’s general assembly on Saturday, Jurin said that the executive committee would remain in place while they work to resolve the controversy surrounding what is set to become Thailand’s largest #MeToo scandal to date. The deputy prime minister also reiterated that he would not resign from his post or the party…

”Responsibility that goes beyond the limit can become irresponsibility. When problems arise during my stint as party leader, I will not shift the responsibility onto others. We are duty-bound to tackle problems without running away. This is the principle we adhere to.”

SOURCE: ThaiPBS | Bangkok Post

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