In a stunning act, 29-year-old actress and singer, Chontida Asavahame, rejects an MP seat and leaves the Bhumjaithai Party. The daughter of a powerful political dynasty, her decision is linked to Thailand’s dynastic politics, especially following the death of her influential father, Chonsawat Asavahame, last year.
A stunningly beautiful 29-year-old actress, singer and local politician on Friday renounced her position in the Bhumjaithai Party. In effect, she turned her back on a seat as an MP in parliament and a voice in national politics. The daughter of a powerful and wealthy political dynasty in Samut Prakan instead chose to focus on local politics.
On Friday, we got an interesting glimpse into the dynamics of dynastic politics in Thailand.
In an unexpected turn, Chontida Asavahame, the fifth candidate on Bhumjaithai’s Party list who would automatically have become an MP when the former Minister of Transport, Saksayam Chidchob resigned on Wednesday after a Constitutional Court ruling against him, instead declined the role.
A beautiful member of the powerful Asavahame political family in Samut Prakan. She is also a singer, actress, and model while studying for a master’s degree
Indeed, the 29-year-old decided to resign from the party, relinquishing the opportunity to replace the former transport minister. Ms Chontida is from a well-established and powerful political family in Samut Prakan province adjacent to Bangkok.
At length, Chontida ‘Pleng’ Asavahame is already a well-known actress, singer and model. Prestige Thailand is a magazine in the kingdom for the elite. Previously, it named her among the up-and-coming 300 men and women in the country. It also reported that she was taking a master’s in property development.
On Friday, Bhumjaithai Party’s registrar, Supachai Jaisamut, confirmed her resignation. He disclosed that Bhumjaithai had officially informed the Secretariat Office of the House of Representatives.
In essence, this then rendered Chontida ineligible to assume the MP position. Consequently, Nanthana Songpracha, the next candidate on the party’s list, was expected and subsequently filled the void left by Mr Saksayam.
MP seat offered to Chontida or ‘Pleng’ after former Minister of Transport resigned his seat as an MP on Wednesday following a Constitutional Court ruling
Saksayam Chidchob vacated the seat following last Wednesday’s Constitutional Court ruling. In brief, it was found using a nominee to obscure ownership of a private company. Besides, the same company secured government construction projects worth billions of baht. This ruling led to his suspension from the cabinet on March 3rd 2023.
Ex-minister Saksayam resigned from the Bhumjaithai Party after Constitutional Court ruled against him
It is not clear why Ms Chontida turned down the opportunity to engage in national politics as an MP.
Some speculate it may be linked to political machinations within the Bhumjaithai Party.
Others point to local politics in Samut Prakan and also a personal choice to forge a new path. In Samut Prakan, over the weekend, she was spoken of as a new breed of politician.
Chontida is the daughter of the late politician Chonsawat Asavahame and Nantida Kaewbuasai.
To clarify, she took to Instagram on Friday to convey her decision. In particular, she announced that she would part ways with the Bhumjaithai Party.
Chontida resigned from the Bhumjaithai Party on Friday
Instead, in her post, she mentioned her commitment to assisting her mother and dedicating herself to the people in Samut Prakan. Her surprise departure paved the way for Ms Nanthana Songpracha who later took up the role of MP. Certainly, it is a development that has left tongues wagging in Thai politics.
Formerly, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chada Thaiset had announced Ms Chontida as the new party list MP. This came in his media briefing on Thursday after the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
Afterwards, Bhumjaithai Party stalwarts have been anxious to deny any reputational damage to the party following the judgement. Mr Chada stated that the judgement, in effect, said nothing about corruption. In addition, he also predicted a frontline return to politics for Mr Saksayam.
In the aftermath of Chontida’s announcement, social media platforms buzzed with reaction. Subsequently, the Royal Gazette officially declared Nanthana Songpracha as the list MP for Bhumjaithai.
Chontida’s decision to exit the party may herald a turning point in her political journey. In her Instagram message, she expressed gratitude to the leadership of Bhumjaithai for the opportunities she received.
She spoke about working in local politics with her mother in Samut Prakan. Certainly, this calculated political move does not bode well for Bhumjaithai
However, she highlighted the importance of working alongside her mother and contributing to the Samut Prakan Progressive Group. The latter is the political power group associated with her family in Samut Prakan. It goes back to her grandfather.
Obviously, on the surface, the move shows a deeper commitment to local politics. It also aligns with her vision for a new generation of politics in Samut Prakan.
More cynical political observers would say that the wind is not blowing in the Bhumjaithai Party’s direction.
The political landscape in Samut Prakan was thrown into turmoil last year by the untimely death of Ms Chontida’s father. Mr Chonsawat Asavahame died on March 31, 2023, from heat stroke.
He was attending the Chang International Circuit in the northeastern province of Buriram the day before when he collapsed. This was a racecar event and he was in practice when he lost consciousness.
Her father was a key player not only in local politics but previously within the ruling Palang Pracharat Party which was laid low in the 2023 election
Chonsawat, the president of the Samut Prakan Chamber of Commerce, was a key figure in Progressive Samut Prakan. In short, he played a crucial role in local politics.
His sudden demise impacted not only the Asavahame family’s political empire but also the then-ruling party’s prospects in the 2023 general election.
Chonsawat’s influence extended beyond his official positions. Formerly, he was considered the de facto leader of the Pak Nam faction of the then-ruling Palang Pracharath Party.
The Asavahame family’s dominance in Samut Prakan politics has been long-standing.
Chonsawat’s wife, Chontida’s mother, Nantida Kaewbuasai, currently serves as the chief executive of the Samut Prakan Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO).
Ms Nantida is a well-known and loved singer and recording artist.
Family patriarch living in self-imposed exile in Cambodia. Former deputy minister of the interior intervened after the sudden death of his son in 2023
Chonsawat’s death last year raised questions about the family’s political future, given his failure to designate a clear successor. Despite facing challenges, Vatana Asavahame, Chonsawat’s father, who is currently in self-imposed exile, intervened.
Mr Vatana is a former minister who fled Thailand in 2008. Previously he had served as deputy minister of industry and the interior. His flight into exile came just before a court delivered its verdict in a case against him.
In short, it was one of the longest-running corruption cases in Thailand. It involved billions of baht and the sale of land. He was later sentenced to a prison term in absentia.
Subsequently, he emerged as the owner of two casino and hotel properties in Cambodia along the Thai border in Poipet.
Death toll in casino disaster could be as high as 50 with 10 bodies repatriated to Thailand on Friday
Thai woman got a call from her parent’s mobile phone to be told they had died in the Poipet casino fire tragedy
One of these properties, the Grand Diamond Casino in Poipet, went up in flames in December 2022. It was especially popular with Thai visitors to Cambodia. Up to 50 people perished in the blaze, many of them Thais.
In summary, it is thought this week’s development aims to bolster support for the family’s power base in Samut Prakan. In effect, the Progressive Samut Prakan Team.
At Mr Chonsawat’s funeral, last year, 86-year-old Vatana expressed his commitment to working more closely with the group. This came in an audio clip and open letter released.
Opportunity beckons with a slump in Pheu Thai’s support
The Asavahame family’s political empire, rooted in local dominance and ties to influential figures, faces hurdles in maintaining its authority.
A new generation in Thailand thinks differently and is less inclined towards more traditional family cabals. Candidates from the family, including Ms Chontida, are expected to face tough competition in future at the election hurdles.
However, this year there has been a slump in support for the Pheu Thai Party. This is undoubtedly linked to its backroom deal to form the government in August 2023.
A bright young woman with the courage to turn down a readymade seat as an MP certainly cuts a dash.
At the same time, her family has connections to an immensely powerful political organisation in the province.
Hers is a colourful family which appeals to Thai people. As well as her grandfather in exile, her deceased father served a stint in prison before being pardoned. He later reunited with Ms Chontida’s celebrity mother after being released. Previously, they had divorced.
The Thai public, as elsewhere in the world, has a soft spot for such clans. Certainly, Ms Chontida’s decision to focus on local issues resonates with the family’s deep connections and longstanding commitment to Samut Prakan.
She is undoubtedly a political figure to keep an eye on going forward.