Commoner Party Unveils Policies With Likely No Bangkok Candidate

Commoner Party leader Lertsak Kamkongsak speaks Monday in Bangkok.
Commoner Party leader Lertsak Kamkongsak speaks Monday in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — The Commoner Party announced its policy platform Monday which would include doing away with appointed provincial governors, creating a welfare state, decriminalizing the cultivation of marijuana and decommissioning dams for solar energy.

This was a contrast with the fact that the party will likely be unable to field a candidate in Bangkok, aiming instead for sending 17 constituency-based candidates upcountry and five party-list MP candidates.

Chumaporn Taengkiang, deputy leader of the new leftist progressive party, said no votes would be wasted, however.

“No single vote in the ballot booth will be wasted compared to five years of loss [under the military regime]. If we get 100, 300 or 500 votes, that’s progress,” Chutima said when asked how to convince Thais to vote for his party instead of those with higher chances of getting MPs into parliament.

Under current calculations, at least 75,000 votes if not more would be needed for a party to win one party-list MP seat.

The party only has 2,000 members, and with a week left before the deadline, it has so far obtained only 200 of the 500 members needed by law to fill in a candidate in Bangkok. Environmentalist Lertsak Kamkongsak, the party leader, has only 63 followers on Twitter compared to the more than 27,000 followers of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of newly-founded Future Forward Party.

Lertsak said the party would push for long-term policies and vowed it would exist for a century.

Among its bold policies are replacing appointed governors and district chiefs with elected local representatives, dissolving the International Security Command Operation, or ISOC, and ending the use of coal power plants. It also aims to ensure that at least 60 percent of tax remains in the province where it was collected, introduce a 361-day paid maternal leave program and a minimum annual vacation of 21 days for workers.

Asked about the controversial lese majeste law and whether the party supports the abolition of the death penalty, the party was less clear.

“We have deliberated on the issue but haven’t reached a decision yet,” Chutima said, acknowledging that the two are controversial even for their self-styled leftist progressive party.

Lertsak said that at least 17 MP candidates would compete in the March 24 general elections in the following provinces, mostly in the northeast: Sakon Nakhon, Kalasin, Surin, Nong Bua and Lamphu. In the north, the party will compete in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

With a Commoner Party candidate for Bangkok looking unlikely, Lertsak acknowledged it was unsure if the Election Commission would allow the party to campaign in the capital after they’re all filed Feb 8.

Under current elections laws, drafted and approved by the military junta’s rubber stamp parliament, voters can only vote for a party if it has a candidate based in the constituency.

“I regret that we couldn’t do it on time to send an MP candidate in Bangkok,” Lertsak said.