- Thai Rak Thai
Thai Rak Thai ( _th. ไทยรักไทย, lit. "Thais Love Themselves"; TRT) is a banned [The New York Times, [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/01/world/asia/01bangkok.html?ex=1338350400&en=67bb841094e5a2f7&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink 'Ousted Premier’s Allies Protest Ban on Thai Party'] , 1 June 2007]
political partyin Thailand. From 2001 to 2006 it was the ruling party, led by Prime Minister and founder Thaksin Shinawatra. TRT won the election of 2001 and election of 2005. The party had a populistplatform. Eight months after a military coup sent Thaksin into exile, the party was dissolved on May 30, 2007by the Constitutional Tribunal for violation of election laws, with 111 party members banned from participating in politics for five years [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2007/05/30/headlines/headlines_30035646.php The Nation] ] .
The name is occasionally translated into English as the "Thai Unity Party" or "Thais Love Thais Party", but TRT has no connection to the now defunct
Ruam Thai Party, which was also known as the Thai Unity Party.
The Thai Rak Thai was officially registered on
15 July 1998, by telecommunicationsbillionaire Thaksin Shinawatraand 22 other founding members, including Somkid Jatusripitak, Thanong Bidaya, Sudarat Keyuraphan, Purachai Piumsombun, Thammarak Isaragura na Ayuthaya, and Prommin Lertsuridej. With a populist platform, TRT promised universal access to healthcare, a 3-year debt moratorium for farmers, and 1 million THB microcreditdevelopment funds for all Thai villages. The party was built largely by merging with pre-existing parties and factions, although there was a significant number of new politicians. It also included several former student leaders who had joined the Communist Party of Thailandfollowing the military's 6 October 1976 Massacre, like Chaturon Chaisang, Prapat Panyachatraksa, Adisorn Piangket and Surapong Suebwonglee.
In the 2001 general election, the TRT won 248 seats in the 500 seat House of Representatives, giving it an absolute majority, and making Thaksin the new prime minister. 40% of elected MPs were freshmen. [cite news|title=Markets and Currency Rise on Strong Showing by New Party |publisher=International Herald Tribune |date=January 9, 2001 |url=http://www.iht.com/articles/2001/01/09/thai.t.php] It ruled in a coalition with the
New Aspiration Partyand the Thai Nation Party. The governing parties together had 342 seats, the largest ruling coalition bloc in Thai history.
In government the party has combined populist policies such as economic grants to villages (used for
microcreditloans) and a 30 baht health scheme (allowing anyone to receive medical treatment for a small fee) with strong support for United Statesforeign policy looking forward to a United States - Thailand Free Trade Agreement. The latter included contributing a small number of troops to the United States-led coalition in Iraq.
At the legislative elections on
February 6 2005, the party won 60.7% of the popular vote and 375 out of 500 seats, enlarging the previous absolute majority. In the invalid elections of April 2006, it won 61.6% of the vote and 460 out of 500 seats, the rest remaining vacant due to boycotting of the oppositional parties.
As an agglomeration of several different parties, Thai Rak Thai politicians owe their allegiance to different factions. Precise figures on faction membership do not exist, but the best estimates of the numerical strength of the major factions are provided below. These numbers are based on the membership of the House of Representatives elected in the 2005 general election, which was dissolved on February 24, 2006.
*Wang Bua Ban - Led by Thaksin's sister,
Yaowapa Wongsawat,cite web|publisher=ARDA: Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia |title=There are some very upset members of the governingThai Rak Thai party, and miffed politicians tend to cause problems |url=http://www.asiademocracy.org/content_view.php?section_id=1&content_id=437 |lastaccessdaymonth=October 3 |lastaccessyear=2006] this faction is one of the party's most important groupings, as it includes many members of Prime Minister's inner circle. The faction's base is Thaksin's home province of Chiang Mai. It is estimated that Wang Bua Ban commands the support of over 30 MPs (as of December 2005), mostly from the northern region.
*Wang Nam Yom - Originally a splinter group from Wang Bua Ban, Wang Nam Yom is led by Labour Minister
Somsak Thepsutinand Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, who also serves as Thai Rak Thai's Secretary-General. With the financial backing of Suriya, whose family controls the largest auto parts manufactuer in Thailand, some observers claim that this faction has the resources to form a party in its own right. The group is said to include over 100 MPs, hailing from the northern, northeastern, and central regions of Thailand.cite news|title=Replacing Thaksin |publisher=The Nation |date=April 8, 2006 |url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/04/08/national/national_30001276.php]
*Wang Nam Yen - This is the most notorious faction, led by the veteran political power-broker,
Sanoh Thienthong, a former Interior Minister who held the title of Chief Advisor to the Thai Rak Thai Party. A native of Sa Kaeo province, Sanoh in the 1990s built a political empire that came to dominate several border provinces in eastern and northeastern Thailand. Rather than start a political party of his own, however, Sanoh preferred to play the role of kingmaker by shifting his group from party to party. With the collapse in 1992 of the pro-military government, which Sanoh supported, the faction moved to the Chart Thai Party, which went on to win the elections held in 1995. Dissatisfied with his treatment by Chart Thai leader Banharn Silpa-Archa, Sanoh then defected to the New Aspiration Party, giving it enough support to narrowly win the 1996 elections. However, with New Aspiration's star waning after it was forced out of power in 1997, Sanoh decided to cast his lot with Thai Rak Thai before the 2001 elections. Since joining Thai Rak Thai, however, Wang Nam Yen has largely been sidelined by Thaksin, who does not completely trust Sanoh. As a result, Sanoh has become one of Thaksin's most vocal critics in the Thai Rak Thai Party. Wang Nam Yen's electoral fortunes have also declined slightly since joining Thai Rak Thai at the expense of other factions, and as of February 2006, Sanoh commands the loyalty of only 37 MPs. [cite news|title=Thai minister's resignation undermines embattled prime minister |date=February 3, 2006 |publisher=Monsters and Critics |url=http://news.monstersandcritics.com/asiapacific/article_1094478.php/Thai_ministers_resignation_undermines_embattled_prime_minister] He and his wife resigned from the TRT in February 2006 to establish a the Pracharaj Party. It is unclear how many followers from the Wang Nam Yen faction will defect from the TRT.
*Wang Phayanak - This group is led by Deputy Prime Minister
Phinij Jarusombat, who was leader of the small Seritham Partybefore it merged with Thai Rak Thai after the 2001 elections. Most of the faction's following of approximately 30 MPs (as of December 2005) hail from the northeastern region, where the group often competes with Wang Nam Yen for influence.
*Wang Lam Takong - This faction is composed of the remnants of the old
Chart Pattana(National Development) Party, which merged into Thai Rak Thai before the 2005 elections. Chart Pattana's former leader, Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop, serves as the head of this group. The faction's influence derives from its strength in the country's second-most populous province, Nakhon Ratchasima, which was the stronghold of Chart Pattana. Wang Lam Katong's membership is estimated to include as many as 20 MPs.
*Bangkok Faction - The leader of this group is Agriculture Minister
Sudarat Keyuraphan, who was a key figure in the former Palang Dharma Party that Thaksin led in the mid-1990s. As a result, Sudarat is said to be capable of wielding significant influence over the Prime Minister. The faction includes all the Thai Rak Thai's MPs who represent Bangkokand a handful of others from the surrounding region. Together with a small number of party-list MPs allied with Sudarat, the faction's total membership is estimated to include over 30 MPs.
*Chonburi Faction - Former Sports & Tourism Minister
Sonthaya Khunpluemleads this faction, which split from the Chart Thai Partybefore the 2005 elections to join Thai Rak Thai. Sonthaya's father is the infamous Somchai Khunpluem, the "godfather" of Chonburi who is better know as " KamnanPo." The dominant political force in the eastern provinces of Chonburi and Rayong, this faction counts approximately seven MPs under its wing.
*Buri Ram Faction - Like the Chonburi Faction, this group also defected from the
Chart Thai Partybefore the 2005 elections. The faction's leader is Prime Minister's Office Minister Newin Chidchob, probably the least popular member of Thai Rak Thai owing to his alleged involvement in numerous scandals throughout his political career. With a solid base in Newin's home province of Buri Ram and in neighboring Surin Province, the faction is estimated to include 10 to 15 MPs.
*Phor Mod Dam - This group, also known as "Rim Nam," is led by Deputy House Speaker Suchart Tancharoen, a key figure in the former
New Aspiration Party, which merged with Thai Rak Thai after the 2001 elections. The faction has around 15 members. [cite news|title=Somkid takes an early lead in race to become prime minister |publisher=The Nation |date=April 7, 206 |url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/04/07/headlines/headlines_30001187.php]
*Maleenont Faction - Led by Sports & Tourism Minister (as of February 2006) Pracha Maleenont, whose family controls the local broadcasting and entertainment group
BEC World. This group's influence derives from the Maleenont family's role as one of the leading financiers of the Thai Rak Thai Party. The faction controls approximately 10 MPs (as of December 2006).
*Pongsak Faction - Under the leadership of Transport Minister (as of February 2006) Pongsak Raktapongpisak, this group has emerged recently as a significant force within the party, counting approximately 30 MPs as supporters as of December 2005. Pongsak's alleged close friendship with Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra, the wife of Prime Minister Thaksin, is said to allow him to wield considerable influence over party and government affairs.
After the September 2006 coup
Whereabouts of party leaders after the coup
On the evening of Tuesday 19 September 2006, the Thai military seized control of Bangkok and was endorsed by King
Bhumibol Adulyadejto rule the Kingdom. In the meantime, Thaksin Shinawatrawas in New York City attending a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Most of the TRT executive leadership members were also abroad: Deputy Premier Surakiart Sathirathaiwas with Thaksin in New York, Finance Minister Thanong Bidayawas in Singapore attending the annual meeting of the World Bank/IMF, Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitakwas attending the Thai-France Cultural Exhibition in Pariswith Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhonand HRH Princess Sirindhorn.
Several party executives remaining in Thailand were arrested and detained by the junta. Deputy Prime Minister in charge of national security
Chitchai Wannasathitand Defence Minister Thammarak Isaragura na Ayuthayawere in Thailand and were immediately arrested and detained by the junta. Secretary-General to the Premier Prommin Lertsuridejwas also arrested. Natural Resources and Environmental Minister Yongyuth Tiyapairatand Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchopwere ordered to report themselves to the junta by Thursday 21 September. Both reported themselves and were also detained. [cite news|title=Urgent: Newin reports to ARC |publisher=The Nation |date=September 21, 2006 |url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30014242] [cite news|title=Urgent: Yongyuth reports to ARC |publisher=The Nation |date=September 21, 2006 |url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30014244] cite news|title=Four officials close to ousted Thai PM now detained |publisher=Channel New Asia |date=September 22, 2006 |url=http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/231858/1/.html]
Several party executives including
Chaturon Chaisang, Phumtham Wechayachai, and Suranand Vejjajiva, Veera Musikapong, and Party Deputy and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkitand former Social Development and Human Security Minister Watana Muangsookwere reported to be in Thailand and at liberty. [cite news|title=Ex-ministers in custody |publisher=The Bangkok Post |date=September 22, 2006 |url=http://bangkokpost.net/News/22Sep2006_news01.php]
Reactions from party members
With Thaksin and key party executives either abroad or arrested, the reaction of TRT party members was muted and disorganized. In Thaksin's absence,
Chaturon Chaisangbecame the acting party leader. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/10/19/politics/politics_30016563.php 'People were disappointed in us'] , 19 October 2006]
Several former MPs believed the party would be dissolved by the junta, including former Khon Kaen MP Prajak Kaewklaharn. However, former Udon Thani MP Thirachai Saenkaew, called for the junta to allow Thaksin to contest the next election, claiming that TRT supporters wanted Thaksin to return to politics. [cite news|title=Thaksin should be allowed to contest election: Thai Rak Thai member |publisher=The Nation |date=September 30, 2006 |url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30015063]
Former Sakon Nakhon MP Chalermchai Ulankul said that although he and others might be unemployed for about a year, his faction was "firm" and preparing to run in the election next year. "As long as the Thai Rak Thai Party is not dissolved, we can't say we will move to be under any other party. However, I don't know who will continue the TRT."
Many party members were reported to have resigned from the party in the aftermath of the coup. These included Somsak Thepsuthin and 100 members of the Wang Nam Yom faction. It was not clear whether
Suriya Jungrungreangkit, another influential member of the faction would also resign. Sonthaya Kunplome also was reported to have led 20 members of the Chonburi faction in resigning from the party. Fear that the party would be dissolved by the junta and its members banned from politics fueled the defections. [cite news|title=Sonthaya leads 20 members out of Thai Rak Thai |publisher=The Nation |date=October 3, 2006 |url=http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30015188] [cite news|title=Somsak leads 100 members to resign from Thai Rak Thai |publisher=The Nation |date=October 3, 2006 |url=http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30015187]
On the 2nd of October Thaksin Shinawatra his former deputy Somkid Jatusipitak finally resigned from the Thai Rak Thai Party [cite news|publisher=The Nation |date=October 2, 2006 |url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/10/03/headlines/headlines_30015263.php |title=Thaksin resigns from Thai Rak Thai] [cite news|publisher=The Nation |date=October 2, 2006 |url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30015265 |title=Somkid resigns from Thai Rak Thai Party] , in all probability ending it as a political force.
The party's future was shrouded in doubt following the
military coupthat overthrew Thaksin's government in September 2006. The party was dissolved on May 30 2007by the order of the Constitutional Tribunal for violation of election laws. [ [http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKBKK23310420070530 Thai court orders Thaksin's party disbanded] Reuters] A few high-ranking party members were found to be directly involved in bribing several small parties into competing in constituencies that were bases of the former opposition parties to ensure that minimum turnout rules were met. One hundred and eleven members of the party, including former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, were barred from participating in politics for a five-year period, with only eight out of the 119 charged acquitted.
* [http://www.thairakthai.or.th/ Official web site]
* [http://www.asiademocracy.org/content_view.php?section_id=1&content_id=437 ARDA - TRT Factions]
* [http://www.2bangkok.com/2bangkok/thaimediaproject/050407b.shtml Thai Media Project - 2Bangkok.com]
* [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/Bangkokians/dec23.php "Bangkokian: Pongsak Carves Out His Own Turf," "The Nation", December 23, 2005]
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