General News - Monday December 17, 2007
'SIA LEK' COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT
Veteran MP hoping to upset PPP candidate in a tight contest
Story and photo by PRADIT RUANGDIT
As a seven-time MP for Chiang Rai, Mongkol ''Sia Lek'' Jongsutthamanee is a big name in politics in the northern province. He went into political hibernation following a defeat to Yongyuth Tiyapairat while running under the Chart Pattana banner in the 2001 election, but is now making a comeback _ under the new name of Monthon Sutthathanachot.
The veteran politician, who is running in constituency 2 under the Chart Thai banner, said he changed his name to bring himself good luck. His constituency covers nine districts, including Phan, Pa Daet and Thoeng.
''The name change has nothing to do with politics. I changed it two years ago after my wife asked me to. Others in the family also did so. Had I maintained the old name, there would have been a danger to my life and my family. This was to make my wife happy,'' he said.
His daughter changed her name from Sukhontharos to Thanya.
Sia Lek said he didn't think he would ever return to politics after his defeat to Mr Yongyuth, who represented the mighty Thai Rak Thai party (TRT).
''But things have changed. The sky is now clear as the dark influence has gone. The new constitution makes it more difficult to cheat at the polls. If we have good policies, we have a high chance of winning,'' he said.
He said he is confident that local people still support his family. The fact that his sister-in-law and ex-MP Rattana was elected as chairperson of the provincial administration organisation in 2005 with almost 200,000 votes gave him confidence, he said.
''The victory of Rattana was a morale boost for our family. It indicated that Chiang Rai people still welcome us,'' he said.
It was a big fight for Ms Rattana as she was up against Salakchit Tiyapairat, the wife of Mr Yongyuth who enjoyed the support of the TRT.
''But she made it,'' he said.
Sia Lek said he turned down an invitation from Thaksin Shinawatra for Ms Rattana and himself to join the TRT in 2001. His refusal allowed Mr Yongyuth to leave the Democrats and win under the TRT banner in the election that year.
''I was with Chart Pattana and had no plan to defect for the party gave us political opportunities. If I had wanted an easy victory, I would have accepted his invitation,'' he recalled.
He said he was made secretary to the labour minister while Ms Rattana was deputy spokeswoman in the Chuan Leekpai coalition government.
The loss in the 2001 election was his first poll defeat. Ms Rattana was the only one in his team who won, but eventually lost in 2005. The Jongsutthamanee family faced political hardships when the TRT was in power, he said.
''They kept an eye on us. We were stalked and searched. Our friends in state offices were transferred. That was injustice,'' he said.
''Now there is only me left to fight against Mr Yongyuth. All my team members bowed to him in the 2005 elections,'' he said.
He admitted there was political polarisation in Chiang Rai. He will have to campaign hard to win votes in Sunday's election.
Ms Rattana's popularity and his canvassers being close to local administrative organisations should help him and his party's candidates win seats. He is hopeful that Chart Thai will win at least five seats in the province, three of which would be from constituency 2, where he, his daughter and Veerinthira Nathongbocharas are running.