The Chart Thai Pattana Party has an illustrious history. It claims descent from the now-deceased Chart Thai Party, which propelled two leaders to the prime ministership: Chatichai Choonhavan, in 1988, and Banharn Silpa-archa, in 1995. In its last years it is the latter figure that the party came to be identified with. Banharn, whose grip over his stronghold of Supanburi was legendary, reliably ensured that the party won seats in parliament. After the party’s dissolution by the Constitutional Court, the successor Chart Thai Pattana Party has remained a family business, run first by Banharn’s brother Chumpol, then his daughter Kanjana, and now his son Varawut.
Under Varawut, a smooth speaker who holds degrees from University College London and Wisconsin, the party’s image has been going through a steady makeover. Banharn was known as a hyperlocal figure; it is usually said that during his premiership, the Thai government invested vast sums into developing Supanburi. To be sure, Varawut is still dedicated first and foremost to the project of serving Supanburi. At a recent rally, he beseeched his listeners to remember what ‘Father Banharn’ did for the province. But Varawut’s goals go further than that.
After becoming the Environment and Natural Resources Minister in the Prayut coalition, Varaut has turned his party into Thailand’s standard bearer for environmentalism. The party’s goal, it announced, is to build a “sustainable country” that uses green strategies to propel the country forward. Part of its policy platform is promoting the selling of carbon credits. “The environment,” the party says, “is not an option, but a solution.”
A policy-focused platform: a refreshing look, certainly, and something that only improves our politics. But blink, and you’ll miss it. Even at this early stage in the campaign, the party’s campaign message is already being overridden by a much more pressing priority: an invasion on its home turf. Prime Minister Prayut’s Ruam Thai Sang Chat Party is said to have called Chanchai Prasertsuwan, the brother of a sitting Chart Thai Pattana MP and a former MP himself, to run in Supanburi under their banner.
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