Defection of former Future Forward MP angers Khon Kaen youth

KHON KAEN – In the wake of the Future Forward Party’s dissolution, MPs of the now defunct party have 60 days to join another political party to stay in parliament. 

First-time MP for Khon Kaen Thitinan Saengnak is moving to the co-governing Bhumjaithai Party, a stunt that is angering many politically active students of Khon Kaen University. 

Many of them vented their dissatisfaction in a popular closed university Facebook group. Comments such as “good riddance, there will not be a second time,” and “ideology is meaningless to some people because they can’t take it to the bank. It’s pathetic…” capture the general mood. 

Comments posted in the popular university Facebook group KKU Politics expressed anger over a former Future Forward Party MP for Khon Kaen switching sides to join the government camp.

Thitinan was propelled to victory in Constituency 1–including Khon Kaen University–thanks to an avalanche of support from first-time voters, many of them students. He delivered a shock defeat to Pheu Thai MP Chakarin Pattanadamrongjit, who was expected to retain the constituency as a safe seat from many previous elections. 

Thitinan is among nine former Future Forward Party MPs who were rumored to be switching sides from the opposition to the government camp. Bumjaithai Party confirmed that they have accepted all nine of them this afternoon. 

Amnuai Wichakhot, the head of the Khon Kaen branch office. Photo by Yodsapon Kerdviboon.

Before the defection was confirmed, the mood at Future Forward Party’s branch office in Khon Kaen was one of practiced optimism tinged with cynicism. 

Amnuai Wichakhot, the head of the branch office, told The Isaan Record that he was already aware of the potential for defection. 

“Prior to this, I had heard whispers that some Future Forward Party MPs had been bought out by the government. They were just rumors. But perhaps yesterday’s news is not a rumor,” Amnuai said via telephone.

Amnuai went on to say that ever since Thitinan was elected as the MP for his constituency, he was never seen at the branch office again. He had also heard from other party members and local constituents that Thitinan had not been to see them or talk to them in the constituency after the election either. 

“Actually, I would like to say to Mr. Thitinan that you’re in parliament representing this constituency because the policies of the Future Forward Party appealed to the voters here,” Amnuai said. “I would like Mr. Thitinan to take another look at just what he is doing.”

Amnuai, who worked for the party in Khon Kaen since the beginning, also stated that he had hoped for Thitinan not to defect to the government. “The political ideology of the government is completely at odds with the ideology of the Future Forward Party, with what we told the people,” he said. 

Speaking to The Isaan Record briefly via telephone before the confirmation from Bumjaithai Party, Thitinan revealed that he had been contacted by six parties. 

“I need more time to talk to everyone, to all the parties who say they want to cooperate [with me], but I’m still incredibly busy because [parliamentary sessions] are in full swing. I will make a press statement very soon,” Thitinan said. 

Yesterday, former Future Forward MP Benja Saengchan told the press that there has been a systematic effort to get MPs to defect. Attempts to recruit them occurred in the bathrooms, during smoking breaks, in the dining areas, in the lobby areas of the parliament building, and also by personal telephone. She also claimed that the highest cash reward offered to an MP so far was 23 million baht.

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