'Reformist' Democrat MP Resigns To Join Junta's Reform Body

Alongkorn Ponlaboot poses for photographs during his meeting with Sombat Boon-ngarmanong, a Redshirt leader, on 8 June 2013 (photo by Matichon)

BANGKOK – The self-identified "reformist" Democrat MP has resigned from his party today to serve as the sec-gen of the reform body appointed by the Thai military junta.

Alongkorn Ponlaboot announced his resignation at the press conference today, ending his 22-year-career with the Democrat Party. 

The 57-year-old politician told reporters he decided to hand in his resignation after he was appointed to serve as secretary-general of the National Reform Council (NRC), which was formed by the military junta after the 22 May 2014 coup d'etat to implement various reforms in Thailand. 

According to Alongkorn, he may jeopardise the "impartiality" of the NRC if he still keeps his membership in the Democrat Party. 


"No one in the Democrat Party or the NRC pressured me to quit," Alongkorn said, "It is my duty and responsibility as a NRC member to uphold the image and impartiality of the NRC. We have to be independent of any political side."

A native of Petchaburi province, a major stronghold of Democrat Party, Alongkorn became well-known in recent years for his calls for the Democrat Party to reform itself and focus on the economy, social welfare, and other bipartisan issues, instead of spearheading street campaigns against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Redshirt supporters.

As Thai politics was increasingly polarised in the past decade, with the Redshirts-backed Pheu Thai Party pitted against Yellowshirts-allied Democrat Party, Alongkorn has been widely praised by progressives in Thailand for offering a breakthrough in the political gridlock. However, Alongkorn had always resisted calls for him to resign from Democrat Party and form his own "alternative" political party.

At the press conference today, Alongkorn refused to say whether he would return to parliamentary politics as an MP in the future.

"The future is still far off. I cannot say right now whether I will return to politics after the new constitution has been drafted," Alongkorn said, "If I consider that the new constitution opens opportunities for new generation of politicians to enter politics, I will just stop my career in politics right there."

He added, "I insist that my resignation from Democrat Party has no political agenda. Democrat Party is still the party I love. It's been the only party I ever work for in the past 20 years."

The ongoing reform effort was launched by the military junta's National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO), which seized power from the elected government on 22 May 2014. The NRC, whose members were handpicked by the junta in October without any public consultation, have been tasked with implementing reforms across a wide range of sectors, including politics, economics, culture, and mass media among others. 

The junta promises that a national election will be held after the reforms and "national reconciliation" have been completed. 

In the meantime, the NCPO has coupled its reform effort with an iron-fist rule over Thailand, having banned all political protests against its regime, censored the media, and tried dissenters under the military court, where violators of the protest ban can face up to three years in prison. 

The junta-appointed reform council is also stacked with hardline opponents of Mr. Thaksin, leading many Redshirts to denounce the reform as a one-sided process.  



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