Former Factory Worker Named Future Forward Candidate

Wanwipa Maison. Photo: Future Forward Party
Wanwipa Maison. Photo: Future Forward Party

BANGKOK — A former garment factory worker and labor organizer with a middle-school education became a progressive political party’s third party list candidate Wednesday.

Doubling maternity leave and welfare for new mothers are among social programs Wanwipa “Mod” Maison said she will push for if seated in the new House of Representatives as a member of the Future Forward Party.

“I’ve gone through a lot,” she said in an interview. “In textile factories, it’s mostly women working, and we always get exploited. There are workers who’ve stayed at the same pay for 20, 30 years and are still getting paid as day laborers who have to reach set production goals while working unpaid OT.”

The Uttaradit native said winning a seat would make her the first low-skilled laborer to serve in Parliament.

Women are front and center in the party’s policy prescriptions she is promoting.

She said the party would double maternity leave from 90 to 180 days, as well as the “baby bonus” from 600 baht per month to 1,200 baht, and keep it in place until children reach 6 instead of 3.

So is some economic populism as the party seeks to expand beyond progressive politics to win wider support.

“Why is it that the harder we work, the poorer we are?” she says. “I earned less than 15,000 baht a month. My life was stalled in the same place, even after working for 20 years.”

“I’ve fought for welfare rights for 20 years when I worked in textile factories. Every Labor Day I would present complaints to ask for change. But since then, nothing has happened,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But those complaints were just papers. As an MP, I could make them law instead of having them go to waste.”

Wanwipa was secretary-general of the Triumph Labor Union and executive director of The Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation, but left those positions this month to work for the party full time.

“Workers will be an important voice base for the party,” she said.

Other policies include more money for senior citizens, increased funding of the universal healthcare program and support for youth entering the labor market.

Future Forward estimates the bill for its programs to come in at 650 billion baht, about 370 billion baht more than is currently allocated in the budget. The party says it can be paid for by reprioritizing state funding, downsizing the armed forces and increasing property taxes.

Wanwipa, 36, became the face for the party’s welfare policies at an event laying them out last month.

“The state must take care of us, not bail us out with aid. We need welfare rights, not aid that we have to endlessly fight for,” she said. “We need all-around care, not just a bit of cash during the New Year.”

All political parties planning to contest the March 24 election have until Feb. 8 to nominate their candidates. Future Forward’s first two list seats were reserved for party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (who once sat on the board of The Matichon Group, the parent company of Khaosod English) and Thammasat University law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.

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