Democrat Party leadership has responded to claims of ‘vote buying’ with a threat to launch and pursue legal proceedings for slander against the Palang Pracharat Party MP Pareena Kraikupt despite her removal of the claims on social media. Party spokesman Rames Rattanachaweng said it had nothing to fear as it had conducted an ethical and honest campaign strictly in accordance with the electoral law in both constituencies.

As two former Palang Pracharat Party ministers launch their own party on Wednesday, the victory scored by the Democrat Party in both bye-elections last Sunday in the southern provinces of Chumphon and Songkhla is not being seen as a harbinger of bad news for either the government or the ruling party. The victory announcement was followed by accusations of vote-buying from the controversial Ratchaburi MP for the Palang Pracharat Party, Ms Pareena Kraikupt. These have been rebuffed by the Democrat Party’s spokesman and top legal officer Mr Rames Rattanachaweng. Mr Rames heralded the victory as a vote for stability and the continued efforts of Thailand’s oldest political party. He said, on Tuesday, that legal action under civil, criminal and electoral law was being considered against Ms Pareena despite reports that she has now deleted the claims on social media as the damage to his party’s good reputation has already been done.

Democrat Party spokesman Rames Rattanachaweng (centre) and top legal adviser this week heralded his party’s by-election win as a vote from the people for its continued role in the government of General Prayut Chan ocha. On Tuesday, he warned that the party was seriously considering legal action on several fronts against Palang Pracharat Party MP Pareena Kraikupt after the MP made accusations of vote-buying against his party on Facebook but later removed the messages.

The Democrat Party won both by-elections in the southern provinces of Songkhla and Chumphon on Sunday in what is being seen less as a boost to Thailand’s oldest political party and more of a slap in the face to the leadership of the ruling Palang Pracharat Party and in particular its Secretary-general Thamanat Prompow, the controversial former minister.

Speaking in the aftermath of the result, one political analyst, a lecturer at Rangsit University in Pathum Thani, Wanwichit Boonprong, told the Bangkok Post newspaper that the Palang Pracharat Party’s vote in Chumphon was similar to what it achieved in 2019.

Palang Pracharat Party underestimated the Democrat Party in the contest says political science expert

‘The PPRP lost because it underestimated its political opponent, and relied on party leader Prawit Wongsuwan and secretary-general Thamanat Prompow to drive its campaign, instead of Prayut Chan-o-cha,’ he explained.

Despite the victory, Mr Wanwichit warned that the Democrat Party will face a stiff challenge in the forthcoming General Election for both seats coming from both the Palang Pracharat Party and the Bhumjaithai Party.

He particularly noted the fact that the Democrat Party had campaigned on its constructive role in government and its continued support for the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha.

Palang Pracharat Party faces an uphill battle on January 30th in Bangkok against the Pheu Thai Party

He also forecasts that the Palang Pracharat Party may face a more difficult situation in the by-election to be held on January 30th next in Bangkok’s Constituency 9 where Pheu Thai Party candidate, Surachart Thienthong, who won the seat in 2011, is seen to have a stronger chance than the wife of the former Palang Pracharat Party MP Sira Jenjaka who was removed by the Constitutional Court as an unfit person in December last.

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Ms Saranrat Jenjaka is running on her husband’s track record of service as a highly visible MP since 2019 in the House of Representatives where he made a name for himself as the fiery Chairman of the House Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha’s popularity in the South was another key factor at play in the polls

The popularity of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha in the South was also referred to by Stithorn Thananithichot of the King Prajadhipok’s Institute who noted that the former stalwarts for the Democrat Party, who were also removed by the Constitutional Court last year for their part in the 2014 protests in Bangkok and after a conviction for insurrection in February 2021, had stayed loyal to the party rather than defecting to the Action Coalition for Thailand Party (ACT) headed by former Democrat Party minister and secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban who was the key leader of the 2013/2014 protests which precipitated the 2014 coup in May that year. 

This led to the removal of the Pheu Thai Party government, elected in a landslide in 2011.

Palang Pracharat Party leadership campaigned heavily in Songkhla and Chumphon losing decisively

The defeat in the south for the Palang Pracharat Party comes after the party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and other senior ministers campaigned heavily in the region particularly in Chumphon where its candidate ‘Lawyer Deng’ or Mr Chavalit Arjarn lost decisively to Issarapong Mak-amphai by over sixteen thousand votes polling 32,229 votes to the Democrat Party candidate’s 48,981.

In Songkhla, where the Democrat Party had campaigned particularly hard, the party’s candidate, Supaporn Kamnerdphol Anukul, saw off the Palang Pracharat Party’s Supaporn Kamnerdphol by a smaller margin of 5,045 votes.

The victory for Thailand’s oldest party, described by party leader Jurin Laksanawisit last week as the ‘spirit of democracy in Thailand’ and not about any one person, was welcomed by its national spokesman Rames Rattanachaweng.

Incendiary claims of vote-buying hurled by Palang Pracharat Party Ratchaburi MP Pareena Kraikupt

It comes as he was forced to comment on incendiary claims by controversial Palang Pracharat Party MP Pareena Kraikupt that his party had resorted to vote-buying to swing the contest in both Constituency 1 of Chumphon province and Constituency 6 of Songkhla province.

Writing on Facebook, Ms Pareena said ‘the only reason Democrats won the elections was by fixing 2 districts, is better to buy.’

Democrat Party looking at the claims and may resort to legal action for slander against the MP

Reaction to the comments was mixed with Mr Rames who is also the party’s legal expert, giving a dignified response in which he hailed the victory as being down to hard work by the party on the ground and the continued support of the electorate in what has been considered a stronghold for the party.

He said the Democrat Party would now work hard to justify the faith shown by the people and dismissed reports of a complaint having been filed in Chumphon province with the Election Commission as baseless and without merit.

He said it would not be afraid to respond legally to any complaint and statements from Ms Pareena. He confirmed it was considering legal action on the matter.

He said such proceedings may be pursued to their finality if required as a serious slander against the party and all those involved may have occurred. 

Thanked campaign managers in both provinces

However, he was more interested at this time, in thanking the campaign leaders for the Democrat Party in both Songkhla and Chumphon.

‘Ultimately, I would like to thank all the Democrat Party staff for their hard work in campaigning. In particular, the director of the elections in both districts, Mr Sathit Wongnongtoey and Mr Det Kawthong,’ he concluded.

It is being acknowledged that the campaign on the ground in the south has raised tensions between the two parties in government but most analysts believe that it will not impact the length of time the ministry remains in office.

Thamanat Prompow seen as the biggest loser in the southern polls along with the party’s leadership 

It is agreed by all observers that while the Secretary-general of the Palang Pracharat Party Thamanat Prompow may have emerged as the biggest loser in the contest, having led the campaign for the Palang Pracharat Party, at the same time, the party has not lost face while the position of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha who remains outside party politics, has received a boost from the poll with the Democrat Party highlighted its support for General Prayut in office and its contribution to a stable government in the kingdom.

Later, in response to the comments of vote-buying by Ms Pareena Kraikupt, the Palang Pracharat Party MP for Ratchaburi, Democrat Party deputy spokesperson Ms Siripa Inthawichian said that Mr Rames would be studying the social media messages and considering the possibility of legal action.

Democrat Party spokesperson Siripa Inthawichian dismisses vote-buying claims saying she pities the Ratchaburi constituents of Ms Pareena Kraikupt

‘Personally, I feel sympathy for people who have an MP from the Pracharat Party like Ms Pareena Kraikupt, who spends time posting messages online, attacking others and making false accusations without evidence. It does not create any benefit to society. It only creates divisions whether the election is fixed at any time, no matter if you lose or win, you will see Khun Pareena. She always comes out and attacks others thereby raising herself and others above everyone else. It’s something normal people don’t do,’ said Ms Siripa.

Mr Rames later said that the party was looking closely at the false statements posted online accusing his party of vote-buying.

He emphasised his party has always adhered to honest and fair election practices. It, therefore, had nothing to fear.

Former ruling party leadership reemerges

On Wednesday, a media-only press conference was held at which two former ministers in the government of Prayut Chan ocha Mr Uttama Savanayana, former Minister of Finance and Mr Sontirat Sontijirawong, former Minister of Energy, announced a new political party under the banner ‘Building the Future of Thailand’.

The two men were leading figures in the Palang Pracharat Party which contested the 2019 General Election with Mr Uttama being the party leader and Mr Sontirat being the Secretary-general.

Both were ousted from their party roles and subsequently from the cabinet after an internal heave saw Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and controversial Phayao MP, Thamanat Prompow, becoming party leader and secretary-general respectively. 

Legal action against Ms Pareena under both civil and criminal law being considered  by the Democrats

It has emerged that the Democrat Party is to convene a meeting next week to consider further legal action against Ms Pareena over the social media claims.

It is understood that both civil and criminal actions against the MP are being contemplated for slander.

Ms Pareena is understood to have since deleted her social media messages, posted on Facebook, making the claims of vote-buying.

On Tuesday, Mr Rames said that accountability was important particularly in the light of his party’s role in the coalition government with the Palang Pracharat Party which is represented by Ms Pareena in Ratchaburi.

He said the claims were very serious and that they had already caused damage. He said deleting the posts, at this point, has no bearing on the situation.

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