Chonburi Power joins Pheu Thai coalition after election triumph

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Palang Chon wins 6 of 8 seats; Kunplome clan tightens grasp on region

The Pattaya area again secured a seat at the national political table when Thailand’s incoming prime minister added the Chonburi Power Party to her ruling coalition.

Yingluck Shinawatra, leader of the Pheu Thai Party and the presumed choice to lead the next government, invited Palang Chon and three other small parties to join a coalition that will control 299 of parliament’s 500 seats. The outgoing Democratic ruling party won 159 seats, including just one in Chonburi. The Democrats took all eight of the province’s constituencies in the December 2007 election.

Palang Chon party members raise their hands in victory after winning 6 of 8 seats in Chonburi province.Palang Chon party members raise their hands in victory after winning 6 of 8 seats in Chonburi province.

By winning all but two Chonburi constituencies, Palang Chon gave Pheu Thai little choice but to offer it a role in the new government. By controlling six of eight MPs, the Chonburi Administrative Organization, the Pattaya mayor’s office and a number of district, sub-district and village chief positions, the Kunplome family has become the gatekeeper for the entire Eastern Seaboard.

So, despite the fact that Palang Chon’s members aligned themselves with rival Democrats for the past three years, Pheu Thai rolled out the red carpet for the Kunplomes, along with the Pheu Panadin, Chart Thai Pattaya and Mahachon parties. In return, Palang Chon is certain to go after the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

Miss Thailand Universe Chanyasorn Sakonchan poses for the paparazzi whilst voting in Plutaluang.Miss Thailand Universe Chanyasorn Sakonchan poses for the paparazzi whilst voting in Plutaluang.

Sukumon Kunplome, who won Chonburi constituency 6 and will represent Pattaya in parliament, is the wife of Sonthaya Kunplome, a former Tourism and Sports Minister under Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Getting Tourism and Sports is also important for Chonburi Power’s political goals. The party focused much of its campaign on boosting tourism to the Eastern Seaboard, promising such things as establishment of a tourism university and tax breaks for tourism-related businesses.

A ministry award isn’t certain, however. A day after polls closed, Pheu Thai officials were quoted as saying parties would need to contribute eight MPs to the coalition in exchange for each Cabinet post. Palang Chon has only seven.

Among them, are Suchart Chomklin in Chonburi’s 1st constituency, Ukrit Tansawat, in zone 2, Ronathep Anuwat in zone 3, Phansak Ketwatha in constituency 5 and Poramet Ngamphichet in zone 7, which also includes parts of Banglamung and Pattaya.

The bars are closed and the streets are dark, but a few people wander out to see a closed down Walking Street during the elections.The bars are closed and the streets are dark, but a few people wander out to see a closed down Walking Street during the elections.

The Democrats’ only win in Chonburi came in zone 4 were Sarawut Nuangjamnong prevailed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in local results came in Sattahip, home to tens of thousands of Royal Thai Navy personnel. Despite the military’s strong backing of the Democratic Party, Pheu Thai’s Surapol Chandaeng – a former Navy admiral – beat out both the Democrats and Palang Chon.

The other pleasant surprise was that the election went off in Chonburi smoothly and peacefully, with no reports of the violence many feared. More than 706,600 of Chonburi’s 958,793 eligible voters turned out, giving the province nearly 74 percent turnout.

Among the voters were Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit, who cast his vote at 8 a.m. at Samed Temple before visiting polling stations in Banglamung, Sattahip and Ban Beung. The polls were busy everywhere early, as many feared rain in the afternoon.

In Pattaya, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome put his votes in for family and friends at Pattaya School No. 5 before setting out on his own tour of polling locations. In Sattahip, District Chief Chaichan Iamcharoen cast his votes at Sattahip Temple.

Some polling locations worked overtime to make sure everyone could vote. At St. Nikolas Church in central Pattaya, officials attended to disabled voters who said they wanted to cast votes for a government that would improve social services and transport. Others with physical challenges showed up in Samae San, where poll workers also helped blind voters mark their ballots.

The election also saw a little bit of star gazing, as people reached for cameras after spotting Miss Thailand Universe Chanyasorn Sakonchan coming to make her ballot choices at Ratsamakhee in Plutaluang.