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June 28, 2008

Wikipedia: Samak Sundaravej

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Samak Sundaravej
สมัคร สุนทรเวช
Samak Sundaravej

Prime Minister of Thailand
Incumbent
Assumed office
29 January 2008
Monarch Rama IX
Preceded by Surayud Chulanont

Born 13 June 1935 (1935-06-13) (age 73)
Bangkok, Thailand
Political party PPP
Spouse Surat Sundaravej
Religion Buddhist
Signature Samak Sundaravej's signature

Samak Sundaravej (Thai: สมัคร สุนทรเวช) (born June 13, 1935) has been the Prime Minister of Thailand since January 2008, as well as the leader of the People’s Power Party since August 2007.

Contents

Early life and family

Samak was born in Bangkok, Thailand to Sewok Eak Phraya Bumrungrajabhariphan (Samien Sundaravej) and Khunying Bumrungrajabhariphan (Umphan Sundaravej), and is of Chinese descent (ancestral surname Lee (李)).[1] He has five siblings, studied at Saint Gabriel’s College, Assumption Commercial College and Thammasat University. He also got certificates from Chulalongkorn University and Bryant & Stratton College.[2]

As well as being a politician, Samak is a well-known television chef. For seven years until the military coup of September 2006, he hosted a cooking show called Tasting, Grumbling on the Thailand ITV television network. He has said that once he becomes Prime Minister, he will also resume his career as a TV chef. “The constitution does not restrict a prime minister from talking about food,” he said. “I think I’ll have a one-hour programme on Sundays.”[3] Samak is married to Khunying Surat Sundaravej, a financial adviser to the Charoen Pokphand Group. They have two children.

Political career

In 1968 Samak joined the Democrat Party. Well connected to the military, Samak became head of its renegade right-wing faction.[4] In the 1976 general election, he defeated Kukrit Pramoj and was made Deputy Interior Minister in the cabinet of Seni Pramoj. He quickly became prominent for arresting several left-wing activists.[5]

In late August 1976, Seni sent Samak to Singapore for the purpose of persuading Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn not to return to Thailand.[6] Paul M. Handley contends, however, that Samak was a close confidant of Queen Sirikit and had been sent by King Bhumibol to guarantee royal support for the exiled Field Marshal.[7] This charge is apparently supported by Samak’s claim during a cabinet meeting that the King had endorsed Thanom’s return.

Samak was removed from his ministerial position, and in reaction organised an anti-government demonstration calling for the removal of three young liberal Democrat ministers who he branded as being “communists”.[8] Although in 2008 interviews with CNN and al-Jazeera Samak denied complicity with the 6 October 1976 massacre that left officially at least 46 dead, Samak insists only 1 person was left dead. Accounts from witnesses, documents and published reports clearly identify Samak as chief operator of the “Armoured Car” radio programme, an ultra-right wing broadcast that constantly expounded anti-communist and pro-right propaganda.[citation needed] Samak used this programme to stir up hatred against Thammasat University students, and intentionally disobeyed the Prime Minister’s orders at the time to “stop creating divisiveness.” In defending the return of 1973-ousted Field Marshal Praphat over the radio, Samak told listeners that students demonstrating against the dictator’s return were committing suicide.[citation needed]

Following the coup of October 6, 1976, Samak became Minister of the Interior in the administration of Tanin Kraivixien, a palace-favoured anti-Communist with a reputation for honesty. Samak immediately launched a campaign which saw hundreds of supposed leftists, many of whom were writers and other intellectuals, arrested.[9]

In 1979 Samak founded the right-wing Prachakorn Thai Party. In the 1979 General Elections it rocked the incumbent Democrat Party by winning 29 of the 39 seats in Bangkok. In 1983 it extended its base to 36 seats, and did not suffer too greatly from the Democrat surge in 1986.[10]

In 1992, as Deputy Prime Minister in the Suchinda administration, Samak justified the military’s brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators by declaring that the government had the right to do so as long as the United States could send troops to kill people in other countries, a reference to the Gulf War against Iraq and Saddam Hussein taking place from 2 August 1990 to 28 February 1991. [11] He remains unrepentant and continues to stand by his justification, stating that the military was merely trying to restore law and order after the pro-democracy demonstrators, which he branded as “troublemakers”, had resorted to “mob rule”.[12]

Censure (no-confidence) motion

The Democrat Party, led by Sathit Wongnongtoei on June 18, 2008 submitted to Deputy House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranan a censure motion of no-confidence against Samak Sundaravej and 7 cabinet ministers in the parliament, to oust the 6-party coalition government led by Samak’s People Power Party (PPP). The marathon debate would be held on June 28.[13][14]

Amid 4 months in power and public / street protests by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Samak Sundaravej, 73, and all 7 cabinet members, on June 27, 2008, survived the no-confidence motion / 3 days censure debate terminated by the Friday voting session. As predicted by opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, of 442 MPs present, Sundaravej got 280 votes of confidence and 162 votes of no-confidence.[15] But he still faces a political battle ahead, having been accused of acting on behalf of his ousted predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra.[16][17]

Political profile

  • Member of Democrat Party (1968-1976)
  • Member of Parliament (1973-1975, 1976, 1979-1983, 1986-1990, 1992-2000)
  • Founder and Leader of Prachakornthai Party (Thai Citizen Party) (1979-2000)
  • Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives (1975-1976)
  • Deputy Minister of Interior (1976)
  • Minister of Interior (1976-1977)
  • Minister of Transport (1983-1986, 1990-1991)
  • Governor of Bangkok (2000-2003)
  • Senator-elected (2006; later nullified by coup d’état)
  • Leader of People’s Power Party (2007-Present)
  • Prime Minister (2008-Present)

The leader of People’s Power Party

On July 29, 2007, some former members of the Thai Rak Thai Party MPs agreed to contest the 2007 election as candidates of the People’s Power Party. This was after the Thai Rak Thai Party was dissolved by the Thai Supreme Court on May 30, 2007 and followed the ban on participating in politics for many former TRT party politicians, such as Newin Chidchob, Buriram and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Many other former TRT members have also formed their own parties, including Ruam Jai Thai and Puea Pandin Party.

Samak Sundaravej and former TRT Cabinet Minister Surapong Suebwonglee were elected People’s Power Party leader and secretary general respectively on August 24, 2007.

Samak has stated that he is a proxy for Thaksin Shinawatra.[18]

On December 23, 2007 the PPP won 228 seats, sufficient to win the election ahead of the Democrat Party but short of the 241 seats needed for a majority of the 480-seat house.[19] He was able to form a six-party coalition, however, gaining a parliamentary majority of about two-thirds.[20]

In a parliamentary vote on January 28, 2008, Samak was elected Prime Minister, receiving 310 votes against 163 for Abhisit Vejjejava of the Democrat Party. He was endorsed as Prime Minister by the king on the next day.[20] On February 6, his Cabinet, including himself as Minister of Defense, was endorsed by the king and sworn in.[21]Sundaravej angrily insisted he was the country’s real leader February 29, 2008 despite the triumphant return from exile of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the man considered the driving force behind the new government.[22]

Received Thai Decorations

  • 1974 Commander (Third Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.
  • 1975 Commander (Third Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.
  • 1976 Knight Commander (Second Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.
  • 1977 King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Royal Cypher Medal (Rama IX).
  • 1979 Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.
  • 1981 Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.
  • 1983 Knight Grand Cordon (Special Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.
  • 1984 Knight Commander (Second Class,lower grade) of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao.
  • 1984 Knight Grand Cordon (Special Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.
  • 1996 Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of the Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn.
  • 2002 Knight Grand Commander (Second Class, higher grade) of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao.

References

  1. ^ [泰国] 洪林, 黎道纲主编 (April 2006). 泰国华侨华人研究. 香港社会科学出版社有限公司, 187. ISBN 962-620-127-4.
  2. ^ Samuk Sundaravej biography Mathichon Online retrieved on Jan 29, 2008.(Thai)
  3. ^ Cooking with Samak, Thailand’s chef-turned-PM, Guardian, 1 February 2008
  4. ^ David van Praagh. Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy. Holmes & Meier (1996).
  5. ^ Paul M. Handley. The King Never Smiles. Yale University Press (2006).
  6. ^ van Praagh
  7. ^ Handley
  8. ^ Handley
  9. ^ van Praagh
  10. ^ David Murray. Angels and Devils. White Orchid Press (1996).
  11. ^ The Nation, May 21, 1992
  12. ^ Murray
  13. ^ xinhuanet.com, Thai Democrats launch no-confidence motion against PM and ministers in parliament
  14. ^ nationmultimedia.com, Censure motion filed against PM, 7 ministers
  15. ^ reuters.com, Thai PM survives no-confidence motion as expected
  16. ^ afp.google.com, Thai PM survives no-confidence vote
  17. ^ bangkokpost.com/, Democrat leader Abhisit satisfied with debate
  18. ^ Darren Schuettler, “Thaksin looms over Thailand’s post-coup vote”, Reuters (Swissinfo.ch), December 23, 2007.
  19. ^ Thaksin ally wins Thai election, BBC, December 23, 2007
  20. ^ a b “Thailand’s king officially endorses new prime minister”, Associated Press (Taipei Times), January 30, 2008.
  21. ^ “Thailand’s post-coup cabinet sworn in”, Xinhua (People’s Daily Online), February 7, 2008.
  22. ^ “Thai PM: ‘I’m the real prime minister'”, AP (CNN), February 29, 2008.

See also

  • Samak Interview on Al Jazeera
  • Cabinet of Thailand
Political offices
Preceded by
Surayud Chulanont
Prime Minister of Thailand
2008 – present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Pichit Rattakul
Governor of Bangkok
2000 – 2003
Succeeded by
Apirak Kosayothin
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