Gubernatorial Contender Vows Corruption-Free Bangkok

Rossana Tositrakoon holds a sign in a campaign for a fair billing system in mobile phones industry on Jan. 12, 2017.

BANGKOK — An anti-graft activist and former junta-appointed lawmaker says she would bring transparency and better spending practices to City Hall if elected as the next governor of Bangkok.

Rossana Tositrakoon, 65, was the first to formally throw her hat into the upcoming gubernatorial race – even though the date of the election is still unclear. In an exclusive interview, Rossana said she represents no political group and will campaign on behalf of the common people.

“I have been working on anti-corruption scrutiny. If elected, I will make the administrative process transparent and accountable,” Rossana said. “The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s annual budget is around 8 billion. If just 10 percent is lost due to corruption then it’s a waste.”

Although Rossana joined street protests against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra that resulted in the 2014 coup, she said she would run as an independent candidate.

Rossana Tositrakoon

“It shouldn’t be an extension of political party competition,” Rossana said, adding that running Bangkok is more about meeting local needs irrespective of national political affiliation.

The current Bangkok governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, was installed in 2016 by a junta special order after it ousted elected governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra for alleged corruption. Rossana said she expects the election to be sometime early next year.

Rossana said she made up her mind on Tuesday night after many consumer rights groups in Bangkok, as well as some Bangkok-based staff of state enterprises, urged her to consider running.

She is the first to make her bid for Bangkok’s top post official.

Other potential candidates according to media speculation include Pheu Thai Party’s ex-Transport Minister Chatchart Sittiphan, Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the Democrat Party’s insurance company executive Nualphan Lamsam, and Phayao governor Narongsak Osottanakorn.

Rossana Tositrakoon and Yellowshirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul

But all of them have declined to confirm or have outright denied the news.

Rossana played an instrumental role in exposing corruption at the Public Health Ministry in 1998 and opposed the privatization of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand in 2005.

She also campaigned against both former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, on allegations that they were engaging in corruption.

Apart from transparency, other issues she said she would focus on as part of her campaign platform include raising the quality of life in Bangkok, tackling rubbish problems, and allowing local communities to partner and work together with City Hall.

She plans to use as little money as possible to campaign but acknowledged that fund-raising would be needed.

Top: Rossana speaks in favor of medical marijuana law reforms.

Rossana said the basic salary of a Bangkok governor for a four-year term is around four to five million baht, so it makes no sense to spend 100 million baht campaigning.

“Will such a person then retrieve the money spent on campaigning through corruption while in office?” Rossana said.

Due to her activism against Thaksin and Yingluck, Rossana is regarded as a divisive figure. But she said she can overcome the political divide because problems faced by Bangkokians know no color-coded politics.

“The problem of quality of life is a problem faced by everyone.” Rossana said. “It doesn’t matter what political color you belong to.”