An interview with Bangkok Governor Candidate Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn

Outspoken Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn resigned from his post on Thursday to run as a candidate in the Bangkok gubernatorial election.

He will be facing fierce competition from Chadchart Sittipunt, a leading independent candidate who has close ties to the main opposition Pheu Thai Party, and Suchatvee Suwansawat, a candidate from the Democrat Party.

Thai Enquirer caught up with him to better understand his platform and why he is running.

TE: Do you think being a governor would better serve the people than being a parliamentarian?

Wiroj: It is difficult to compare since the two positions have different roles. Being an MP mean I can be a mouthpiece to reflect the people’s voice in the parliament, check on the government’s spending and pass laws to provide justice for the people.

For a governor, the position gives me the power to manage a city and its budget and for Bangkok, it is around 100 billion baht. One of the duties of a governor is to efficiently manage this budget based on fairness and good governance to make sure that every single baht is going to benefit the people.

Some people might see a governor position as a chief executive officer of a company and Bangkok people are employees who are looking for a CEO to manage the company. Not for us.

For us, including me and candidates for Bangkok Council Member, we believe that our CEOs are the people of Bangkok and we are the job applicants who are looking to work as managers with various projects.

TE: If you become the governor of Bangkok, what are the three problems that you will fix first?

Wiroj: The first is safety within the capital. If our house is unsafe, we will be scared and paranoid while living in it and it would be harder to push for any other policy.

What I mean by safety is the protection from possible crimes along with the safety of pedestrians on the walkways and all the riders and drivers on the streets.

The second is to cooperate with the majority of existing civil servants to get rid of bribery and corruption within the capital.

Civil servants that are fair and just should have a space to fully do their work and they must have a chance to grow in their careers.

Policies are like furniture. If your house is dirty with wastewaters and full of garbage, the nice furniture we bought into the house will be dirtied by this unwanted filthiness and there is no way that the people living in it will be happy.

The third thing is to lift the quality of life, basic welfare and public services so that people do not have to spend more money in order to avoid the problems of living in this city.

For example, many people living in Bangkok are not using their Gold Card (the country’s universal health care scheme) because there are less than 300 community clinics that will accept them.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration should work with the National Health Security Office to increase the number of community clinics within the country’s universal health care scheme so that people can gain easier access to basic healthcare services.

Another example is to make sure that parents can trust the public schools in Bangkok to provide a level of education that is up to standard.

There are many good things in Bangkok but you have to pay extra if you want them. This shouldn’t be the case.

TE: What about the classic problems of bad traffic, air pollution and flooding?

Wiroj: Fixing these problems are BMA’s duties, not policies.

People living in Bangkok nowadays think that fixing these problems are policies because things that the governor should have been doing for the past seven or eight years were not being done.

For flooding problems, there should be enough fully functional mobile water pumps in advance of the rainy season.

For traffic congestion, that is something that the governor cannot fix alone. For example, the BMA is not in charge of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority so what it could do is to auction for more transit lines.

For air pollution, that is also something that a governor cannot fix alone because it requires cooperation with the Pollution Control Department, the Department of Industrial Works and the DLT.

What the governor can do is enforcement such as making sure that factories and construction sites follow environmental protection regulations or working with the DLT to lower the level of black exhaust smoke in the air.  

Most vulnerable groups such as children in childcare and students in schools should also be protected where there should be areas that are fitted with air purifiers so that they can be protected from PM2.5.

TE: How would you deal with protests in the city?

Wiroj: The freedom of expression and the right to assembly are human rights that should be protected by the constitution.

The people, regardless of their political preference, grievances or demands, should be able to exercise these rights and the duty of the governor is to protect these rights, facilitate them and treat all sides equally.  

TE: What if this government does not like how you are dealing with protesters in the capital?

Wiroj: My question is should a governor respect the constitution or the government? The answer is obviously the charter because the governor must respect the rights of people living in Bangkok and the rights of the people in this country as a whole.

If the people are exercising their constitutional rights, the governor cannot violate the charter or be spineless by choosing to please the government. The governor must respect the constitution and protect the rights of the people in every group, regardless of how they think of the governor.

TE: If you were not voted into office, will you reapply as MP candidate for the next general election?

Wiroj: I have yet to think about that today because my mission is to be a candidate for the governor election in Bangkok so I have to do this to my best ability first before thinking about anything else.

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