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Phuket's Aparat Chartchutikumjorn, at 42, one of the youngest NPP leaders

Phuket's PAD Leader Tastes New Thai Politics

Monday, June 15, 2009
HER hero is Aung San Suu Kyi. She has had to face threats of her own, although nothing like years of house arrest or an assassination attempt.

But she may already be the most powerful woman in the People's Alliance for Democracy, which is soon to take on a new life as the New Politics Party.

In the flesh, Aparat Chartchutikumjorn does not look like a revolutionary. But then, how are revolutionaries supposed to look?

Daughter of a Phuket family, Khun Aparat's anguish about the airport occupations was compounded because her family's tour business was affected financially by what the PAD was doing.

She talked it through with them, and they agreed it was a matter of principle and worth the commitment.

As the PAD moves on, the birth of the new party has attracted almost as much attention as Chiang Mai's panda cub.

What shape will it be today? Are its eyes open? Can it bite yet?

The truth is that while the early investment in nurture is being made within the party, Thailand's unpredictable political nature may win out in the end.

In any case, it may take years before the character of the NPP is fully formed.

The interim chief of the new party, Somsak Kosaisuk, has even said the NPP would not seek power in the government but aims to end corruption and injustice.

As an idealist, Khun Aparat sees the need for change, too, and is dedicated to the cause. But it isn't going to be easy.

With scores of bullets fired into his vehicle at Songkran, the assassination attempt on the PAD's best-known face, Sondhi Limthongkul, was a clear indication that THai politics can be bad for your health.

Indeed, Khun Aparat has taken her share of threats, including one telephone call quite recently, while a Phuketwan reporter was talking to her.

On this day in a Phuket City restaurant, she chats in animated fashion and makes the point that she is not scared. These things have to be done.

Her connection to the movement goes back four or five years now, and she has been a stayer through good times and bad.

Khun Aparat rattles off answers to Phuketwan's questions in quickfire succession. Despite their varied backgrounds, the constant media attention on the PAD has empowered its leaders with excellent speaking skills.

Outsiders, particularly expats without the benefit of fully understanding the Thai language, still struggle for a real sense of what the movement is all about, and whether it will prove to be hard-line nationalist and perhaps unfriendly in the end.

How would she explain the difference between the red-shirts and yellow-shirts to an outsider?

The difference is about money, she says. Among the yellow shirts, nobody gets paid.

They are generally middle-class with an education, so money is not necessarily the most important thing in their lives.

On the other hand the red-shirts, she says, are poorer and might come to a rally purely for money.

They are not well educated and they believe that if disgraced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is not in Thailand, nobody can care for them.

So they want him back. In the south, Khun Aparat says, people can stand by themselves. They are not poor.

The red-shirts are told what to do, but the yellow-shirts have plenty of ideas of their own.

Foreigners have nothing to fear, she says, from the new party. The need for investment and ideas from abroad is widely accepted.

She is keen to say sorry, though, for the invasion and blockade of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok last November.

The PAD thought the Thaksin-backed government would quit quickly, within two days, she says. But the face-off went on and on, causing serious damage to Thailand's tourism industry that has yet to be repaired.

Khun Aparat now shuttles between Phuket and Bangkok (at her own expense) whenever the development of the new party demands her attention.

Like Khun Somsak, she believes that the NPP will take years to mature. This is not going to be some fast-paced overnight revolution.

At 42 and single, she is fully committed to the movement, having been in Bangkok talking with Khun Sondhi just the previous day.

He is recovering from the bullet wound to his scalp, she says, but needs more time.

Finance for the new party will come from the individuals who support it, she says, although there is also now support from an unnamed sponsor.

Democracy? Well, the Thai version is not especially democratic because Thai governments largely represent rich families who can afford to buy votes, which is why they have power.

The rich have the ability to obtain advantages, she says, which was the problem especially with Thaksin Shinawatra having so much money.

The north east is large and because of the population there, she says, with votes there to be bought, legitimately democratic parties always lose elections in Thailand.

Rich people can manipulate the system, which is why the yellow-shirts went for public exposure and a mass movement.

Khun Aparat does not see any problems for southern voters who have been raised on the Democrat Party.

Next election, they will simply have more of a choice. She is not expecting instant success for the new party, and says it could take five years, perhaps, to win an election.

Once the party is ready, members will vote for a long-term leader. She's happy, too, to leave her team to decide whether she might make a successful candidate.

According to the dictionary, an ''apparat'' is a political grouping, and from that springs the Russian word ''apparatchik,'' for an unquestioningly loyal communist follower.

But then, they were Reds.

We suspect this Aparat, however, now in the new party's green and gold colors, undoubtedly asks more than her share of questions.

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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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no matter who be a Thai leader must respect human right, refugee right, and international law. Do not treat refugee like animals, live in prison, and force back to communist regime.

Posted by charle tao on June 15, 2009 22:36

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Pray for Aung San Suu Kyi. She is hero in our life On her Birth Day June 19th 2009.. FREE NOW !!!!!

Posted by Belive & Hope on June 17, 2009 20:09

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Pray for Aung San Suu Kyi Birthday 19th June and the freedom.

Posted by For Burma democratic on June 18, 2009 15:50

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It's all about Money these days. The girl is doing with her faith not for the money.

Where are we going to find a place to stand if Greed Rules.

How are we going to tell our children when we let our greedy generation rob away their future ?

Posted by sparrow on July 18, 2009 10:47


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