Shinawatra clan, allies form new party ahead of Thai elections

Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich (centre) arriving for the new party's first meeting in Bangkok yesterday. Members of the political party include the nephew and niece of former Thai premiers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingl
Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich (centre) arriving for the new party's first meeting in Bangkok yesterday. Members of the political party include the nephew and niece of former Thai premiers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck, and the younger generation of the clan's political allies.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK • Relatives and allies of ousted Thai premiers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck, formed a new political party yesterday, ahead of a general election set for early next year, in a move seen as a strategy to win more seats.

The junta has promised to hold elections between February and May, after repeated delays. The race is set to be a contest between supporters of the military and royalist establishment and populist forces led by Thaksin's Puea Thai Party that was ousted in a 2014 coup.

Members of the new Thai Raksa Chart Party include Thaksin and Yingluck's nephew and niece, close aides, and the younger generation of the clan's political allies. It is headed by Mr Preechapol Pongpanich, a former Puea Thai MP.

Political scientist Yuttaporn Issarachai said: "It's a political strategy for Puea Thai under the new electoral system to win more seats."

Parties linked to the Shinawatras have won every election in the past decade. But the junta's new Constitution, which the military said aims to weaken major political parties, effectively cuts constituency seats in provinces where the Shinawatras have previously held dominance.

Puea Thai faces dissolution after the junta ordered the Election Commission to investigate whether Thaksin was still controlling the party. He was ousted in a 2006 coup and has since lived in self-imposed exile to avoid a graft conviction in 2008.

Yingluck fled Thailand in August last year just before a court found her guilty of criminal negligence over a rice pledging scheme. She received a five-year jail term in absentia.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2018, with the headline 'Shinawatra clan, allies form new party ahead of Thai elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe