Opinion: The Enigma of Chadchart: The Truman Show Bangkok Governor

Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt is livestreamed as jogs through Wachirabenchathat Park (Rod Fai Park) on July 3, 2022.
Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt is livestreamed as jogs through Wachirabenchathat Park (Rod Fai Park) on July 3, 2022.

It’s been a month since Chadchart Sittipunt was elected as the new Bangkok governor in a landslide victory. The Chadchart fever is still very much alive and on Thai Twitterverse, the hashtag #ชัชชาติ (#chadchart) continues to trend almost daily. How do we explain the Chadchart phenomena?

Perhaps there is no one single answer but several factors involved. Here is my semi-educated guess.

First, there had been no Bangkok gubernatorial elections for nine years due to the disruption caused by the 2014 military coup and a good number of first-time voters grew up under the military junta of Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha who feel fed up with military dictatorship.

Asawin Kwanmuang was appointed as governor after Prayut exercised his absolute dictatorial power to removed Sukhumbhand Paribatra from office in October 2016. So, the situation was not that of electing just another Bangkok governor at all, but a chance to send a direct message to Prayut and co.


Second, Chadchart, who was formerly a transport minister under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, resigned from the party and ran as an independent. Chadchart told me in an interview weeks before he was elected that he will take no order from the opposition Pheu Thai party or from ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the man who is widely regarded as the real party leader.

Chadchart spoke about how he wished the color-code political division would end. That means some people who are not outright anti-Thaksinite would have little or no problem seeing him as governor for all, as Chadchart has vowed to leave the toxic national politics behind and have so far succeeded in doing so.

The fact that he’s very well educated, a former university lecturer, and came from a prominent royalist family also helps many educated Thais to accept him, particularly when compared to some half-baked former junta leaders still roaming around the corridors of power.

Third, Chadchart was directly elected, unlike the Thai prime minister who had to be chosen by the parliament. This means many of his supporters feel greater affinity. They feel they have chosen him, and the choice was clear cut, unlike that of prime minister in which the party with the highest number of MPs may not, in the end, be able to ensure that their PM choice will definitely become the prime minister.

Fourth and last, is the Facebook Live effect.

Over 1.3 million Bangkokians voted for Chadchart, but he now has over 2.5 million followers on his Facebook account where one can watch Chadchart working on a near daily-basis from dawn to well past dusk.

On Friday night, he was attending to a flood problem somewhere in Bangkok at 10pm. The next morning, before 6am, he is already up and jogging live on Facebook at Reignwood Park Run, covering a distance of 10 kilometers. The pre-dawn jogging Facebook Live episode received more than 50,000 Likes and Loves, 1.600 shares, 7,400 comments, and 404,000 views just hours after!

This is an unprecedented real time live reality political show on a near daily basis – the first in Thailand. Chadchart has a dedicated team to cover his activity. In the era of social media, this is a game changer, and Chadchart has proven to be ‘natural’ when it comes to engaging with people on Facebook Live.


Basically, what you see is what you get, and you can watch your governor working (hard) real time from before dawn to well after dusk – almost cunningly like The Truman Show as his activities are limited to the confines of a city called Bangkok.

Some say this is more like a political showbiz and Chadchart does not need to really be everywhere on Facebook Live, every day, but should instead focus on the big pictures, make decisions, and relegate works for many other of his staff. Such criticism is not invalid and what is more, Chadchart’s Facebook Live is turning the electorates into more of a fan club of the governor instead of someone more equal in a normal political relationship.

It is now to be seen if any other politicians will be able to capitalize on this new medium called Facebook Live (every day) like Chadchart the Truman Show Governor or not.