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October 14, 2008

Wikipedia: Abhisit Vejjajiva

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นายอภิสิทธิ์ เวชชาชีวะ หัวหน้า พรรคประชาธิปัตย์ Khun Abhisit Vejjajiva - photo by Mrs. Tongmuan Anderson, Korat, Thailand 17 April 2008

นายอภิสิทธิ์ เวชชาชีวะ หัวหน้า พรรคประชาธิปัตย์ Khun Abhisit Vejjajiva – photo by Mrs. Tongmuan Anderson, Korat, Thailand 17 April 2008

Abhisit Vejjajiva (Thai: อภิสิทธิ์ เวชชาชีวะ) (born August 3, 1964), a Thai politician, has been the leader of the Democrat Party since February 2005.

Contents

Early life and education

Abhisit was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England to Dr. Athasit Vejjajiva and Dr. Sodsai Vejjajiva. His parents were both medical professors. His father was also a politically influential technocrat[1] and had once served as Deputy Minister of Public Health.[2] Abhisit has two elder sisters. After studying at Chulalongkorn University’s Demonstration School, he transferred to Scaitclife School and Eton College.

Abhisit was enrolled at Oxford University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree (first class honours) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He taught briefly at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Thailand, but returned to Oxford to pursue a Master’s degree in Economics. He then became a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics at Thammasat University. He also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Ramkhamhaeng University in 1990.

Family

Abhisit was married to Dr Pimpen Sakuntabhai, a former dentist and now a lecturer at the Department of Mathematics at Chulalongkorn University. They have two children.

The Vejjajivas are a prominent family of Thai Chinese[3] (Hakka)[4] origin who maintained good relationships with the ruling elite as early as the 18th and 19th centuries,[5] and Abhisit himself is a fourth-generation Thai-Chinese.[6] One of his sisters, Ngarmpun Vejjajiva, is an award-winning novelist.[7]

Entry into politics

Abhisit began his political career in 1992 as a Democrat MP for Bangkok constituency. He was reelected to the same seat in 1995 and 1996. In the elections of 2001 and 2005, he returned to parliament as a Party List MP for the Democrat Party. He has served as Democrat Party spokesman, Government spokesman, Deputy-Secretary to the Prime Minister for Political Affairs, Chairman of the House Education Affairs Committee, and Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Abhisit has occasionally been criticized for relying on his good looks to further his career. Morgan Stanley economist Daniel Lian, in a letter to then PM Thaksin, reportedly asked, “Other than his pretty young face, what else can he offer to the Thai people?”[8] However, The Nation, a local English newspaper responded that “Abhisit’s ammunition is pure decency [and] unrivalled talent.”[9].

Democrat Party leader

In 2001, Abhisit made a bid for party leadership, taking on a seasoned politician Banyat Bantadtan. Abhisit lost. However, Banyat led the Democrats to an overwhelming defeat by Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party in the 2005 legislative elections. Banyat resigned and Abhisit was chosen to replace him.

The Anti-Thaksin crisis

When Prime Minister Thaksin called a snap election on February 25, 2006, Abhisit said he was “prepared to become a prime minister who adheres to the principles of good governance and ethics, not authoritarianism.” The very next day, however, he announced that the Democrat Party, along with other opposition parties, would boycott the elections. Abhisit joined the Thai Nation Party’s Banharn Silpa-Archa and Mahachon Party’s Sanan Kachornprasart in claiming that the elections “lacked legitimacy” and were an attempt by Thaksin to “divert public attention” from his tax free sales of the Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings. Abhisit also said what was likely from the short time allowed “was an election that would yield the outcome Mr Thaksin was expecting.”

On March 24, 2006, citing Section 7 of the 1997 Constitution, Abhisit urged Thaksin to resign and suggested that King Bhumibol Adulyadej appoint a temporary replacement for the Prime Minister.[10] King Bhumibol dismissed the idea, saying that it would be unconstitutional. “Asking for a royally appointed prime minister is undemocratic,” replied the King. “It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational.”[11]

Not surprisingly, Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai won an overwhelming majority in the virtually uncontested April election. However, it fell short of the required support of 20% of the registered voters needed to claim victory in several constituencies boycotted by other opposition parties. This required by-elections. Thai Rak Thai later charged the Democrat Party with bribing other small political parties into boycotting the elections. (The Democrats denied this allegation and were acquitted of the charges by the Constitutional Tribunal on May 30, 2007.)

The Democrat Party, led by Thaworn Senniam, sued the Election Commission for holding elections that were against the election law and started a petition to nullify the elections. It also led a boycott of the by-elections.[citation needed]

Election fraud charges

An 11-member fact-finding panel headed by Deputy Attorney-General Chaikasem Nitisiri voted unanimously on June 28, 2006 to dissolve the Democrat party (as well as the Thai Rak Thai party and 3 other parties) based on evidence that the party bribed other small opposition parties into boycotting the election of April 2, 2006. Abhisit met with political attaches from 20 countries in order to explain the charges.[12][13]

In February 2007, in a case before the Constitution Tribunal, candidates from the Progressive Democratic Party testified that they were duped into registering for candidacy in the April elections.[14]

Three witnesses also testified that Democrat leaders Thaworn Senniam, Wirat Kalayasiri and Jua Ratchasi encouraged protesters to disrupt the registration of candidates during the by-elections after the April 2006 election. Prosecutors contended that the party tried to disqualify the election results and force continuous rounds of by-elections.[15] Counter allegations ran amiss that these same witnesses were hired by opposing political factions to discredit the Democrats. Eventually, the Constitutional Tribunal acquitted the Democrat Party of all charges.[16][17]

Policy platform

On April 29, Abhisit announced his candidacy for Prime Minister at the Democrat Party annual convention. He promised an “agenda for people”, with education as the main focus. He used the campaign slogan “Putting People First”. He also vowed not to privatise basic utiliies such as the electricity and water supply and to nationalize state enterprises that Thaksin had already privatized.[18] Regarding core elements of the so-called “Thaksinomics”, Abhisit promised “the benefits from certain populist policies, such as the 30-Baht healthcare scheme, the Village Fund and the SML (Small Medium Large) scheme, will not be revoked but instead improved.” He later urged that Thaksin’s popular 30-Baht healthcare scheme should be replaced with a system where access to medical services is totally free.[19] Abhisit stated that all of future Democrat MPs would have to declare their assets and any involvement in private companies. (By law, only members of the cabinet need to declare their assets.)[20]

Abhisit raised over Bt200 million at the Democrat Party’s 60th Anniversary dinner. He outlined several energy policies, including:[21]

  • Increasing dividend payments from the PTT and using the funds to repay Oil Fund debts
  • Allowing EGAT to absorb part of the rising fuel prices, since a non-listed EGAT would have no incentive to increase their return on investment.

Abhisit later outlined plans to reduce retail petrol prices by eliminating the 2.50 baht/litre tax used to maintain the government’s Oil Fund. However, his plans were criticised as distorting the market mechanism and discouraging the reduction of oil consumption.

On July 13, 2006, Abhisit promised to deal with escalating violence in the South by making the problems in the Southern provinces a public agenda.[12]

Abhisit has also promised many populist policies in addition to free health care, including:[22]

  • Providing free education, textbooks, milk and supplemental foods for nursery school students
  • Increasing the minimum wage

Military coup

On September 19, only weeks before the scheduled elections, the military seized power in the 2006 Thailand coup. Abhisit immediately voiced his disapproval of the coup just hours before all political activities were banned:

We cannot and do not support any kind of extra-constitutional change, but it is done. The country has to move forward and the best way forward is for the coup leaders to quickly return power to the people and carry out the reforms they promised. They have to prove themselves. I urge them to lift all restrictions as soon as possible. There is no need to write a brand new constitution. They could make changes to the 1997 constitution and if that’s the case, there is no reason to take a year. Six months is a good time.[23]

Abhisit was criticized for his lack of action after the coup, with The Economist calling him “well-liked but ineffectual.”[3]

Support for the junta’s constitution

Abhisit supported the military junta’s draft constititution on the grounds that it was the “lesser of two evils”. Abhisit said the Democrat Party considered the new constitution similar to the 1997 Constitution, but with improvements as well as faults. “If we wanted to please the Council for National Security we would reject the draft so it could pick a charter of its own choosing. If we reject the draft, it will be like handing out power to the Council. We have come up with this stand because we care about national interest and want democracy to be restored soon,” he said.[24] Acknowledging the flaws of the new Constitution, Abhisit has also proposed, along with asking for cooperation from other political parties, to amend the Constitution once he is in power.[25]

December 2007 election

The Democrat Party was left in the opposition after the December 2007 parliamentary election, as Samak Sundaravej of the People’s Power Party was able to form a six-party coalition. In a parliamentary vote on January 28, 2008, Abhisit was defeated by Samak for the post of Prime Minister, receiving 163 votes against 310 votes for Samek.[26]

2008

Following the removal of prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008, Abhisit lost the National Assembly vote for Prime Minister by 163 votes to 298 for Somchai Wongsawat. [27]

References

  1. ^ Linda Waverley Brigden, Joy De Beyer. Tobacco Control Policy: Strategies, Successes, and Setbacks. World Bank Publications, 165, 172, 174. ISBN 0821354027. 
  2. ^ Political economy of tobacco control in Thailand; Assembly XLVII
  3. ^ Is Abhisit Vejjajiva Thailand’s Next Leader?
  4. ^ วังน้ำเย็นขู่ ยกมือสวน โกงซีทีเอ็กซ์ บีบทรท.ไล่; แกะรอยสาวใช้ตัวแสบ ฉกเอทีเอ็มหนุ่มมาร์คกด 121 หน-กว่า 8 แสน
  5. ^ Lynn Pan. The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas. Harvard University Press, 220, Thailand – Changes in its economic future. ISBN 0674252101. 
  6. ^ 老鳥沙馬vs.溫文阿披實 兩黨魁風格殊異
  7. ^ The S.E.A. Write Awards a Thai Airways Sponsored Programme
  8. ^ Bangkok’s Independent Newspaper
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Prem stays silent on Democrats’ latest call
  11. ^ HM the King’s April 26 speeches (unofficial translation)
  12. ^ a b Bangkok’s Independent Newspaper
  13. ^ The Nation, OAG proposes dissolution of Democrat, Thai Rak Thai, 3 other parties, 27 June 2006
  14. ^ The Nation, http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/02/02/politics/politics_30025769.php 2 February 2007
  15. ^ The Nation, Witnesses link Democrats to registration delay, 23 February 2007
  16. ^ The Nation, Historical rulings unfold, 30 May 2007
  17. ^ The Left/Right Debate Thai Tribunal: Democrat Party Cleared Of Electoral Violations (Nasdaq), 30 May 2007
  18. ^ Abhisit vows fresh start, honest govt
  19. ^ [2][dead link]
  20. ^ Abhisit announces candidacy for PM
  21. ^ Can Abhisit lead Thailand?
  22. ^ Abhisit pressures PM to TV debate
  23. ^ The Nation, Abhisit criticises, then politics banned, 21 September 2006
  24. ^ The Nation, Draft gets Democrats’ vote, 9 July 2007
  25. ^ Time Magazine, Is Abhisit Vejjajiva Thailand’s Next Leader?
  26. ^ “Thailand’s king officially endorses new prime minister”, Associated Press (Taipei Times), January 30, 2008.
  27. ^ Somchai elected new prime minister

External links

See also

  • Democrat Party (Thailand)
  • Suranand Vejjajiva
  • Thaworn Senniam
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