Opinion: Background checks necessary before fielding candidate as latest scandal shows

For the Democrat party, the 2022 Songkran break is not the holiday many had hoped for. Instead of splashing water and making merit, a senior member has been caught up in a scandal and the party has stayed largely silent.

Prinn Panitchpakdi, the deputy leader of the Democrat party, resigned from the party as a result of the sexual assault allegation.

(Read more here)

Prinn, the former chief executive officer of CLSA (Thailand) and the son of the former Deputy Prime Minister (who was the head of the World Trade Organization and Secretary-General of UN Conference on Trade & Development) joined the Democrat party and moved up the leader ladder in the party thanks to his father’s backing and branding.

To make matters worse for Prinn, the public announcement by a lawyer – Sittha Biabangkerd, on his social media page – has prompted at least another ten accusers.

Prinn in his defense to the media accepted that he had invited the alleged victim to a restaurant.

The question is why a person with such high standing in the party, that touts itself for its ‘morality’, ask an 18-year-old university student to go to a bar.

Remember this is the same Democrat Party, that likes to take the moral high ground. It cited morality in its 2005/2006 protest against Thaksin Shinawatra for his failure to pay ‘tax’ on his family’s sale of the then called Shin Corp Plc to Singapore’s Tamasek Holdings and during the 2013 protest against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government Amnesty bill.

Where is morality then?

Do You Know Who My Father Is?

Thailand has been a country where this phrase has been used by the elites to get away with anything from running pedestrians over down to political powers.

The good deeds done by the fathers and grandfathers are used as a way to get away with murder (literally) by saying ‘do you know who my father is?’.

The case of Prinn is one of the many cases where the branding of the father has helped him prosper in his career despite misconduct.

Many people in the political circles are put high up in the ranks because their father or mother was a ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ or ‘Finance Minister’ or ‘Commerce Minister’ or even higher positions in the past.

If you take the example of other parties, say Pheu Thai party, the key leaders of the party are literally family.

The Chart Thai Pattana party is currently led by Kanchana Silapa-archa, the daughter of the party’s founder Prime Minister Banharn. The party’s key leader is Varawut Silapa-archa, the son of Banharn.

The other coalition partner of the incumbent government – Bhumjai Thai party is also similarly all family. The number 2 is Saksayam Chidchob, brother of Newin.

It’s just with the Democrat Party, they have always carried themselves as above family politics, above filial obligations. Yet it is some irony that it is now being put to the sword because of dynastic politics.

Due Diligence on Potential Candidates

Political parties are so engrossed in getting the ‘right’ candidate to contest the elections that they forget to undertake a very basic background check.

The case of Democrat party is a clear indication that in Thailand, a fancy last name or the right connection is more important than a ‘clean’ history.

Prinn has been accused before of sexual misconduct, he went to court in the United Kingdom to defend against rape charges.

The Democrat are not alone.

Don’t forget that the ruling Palang Pracharath Party ran Thammanat Prompao, a convicted drug smuggler who was accused (and acquitted) of attempted murder.

The drug dealing convict not only escaped the background check of PPRP but also of the Pheu Thai party, where he was a member for nearly a decade.

The fact that drug dealers and people with dubious credentials are able to get to the top of the social strata is a testament to the fact that Thailand has a long way to go if it want to clean up the political system.

What is worst is the party’s absolute lack of accountability.

This was evident by a statement from Anwar Saleh, the Democrat MP from Pattani, who came out to that Prinn deciding to step back was a good step for the party and its future and was glad that Prinn apologized for his deed. What Anwar did not mention was the plight and heartache of the individual.

“I admire the courage that Prinn has, if one makes a mistake, then ask for forgiveness and that is what he did.”

What a mess. To think, this could all have been avoided with a little due diligence.

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