Kunplome family party hopes independence wins seats in July election

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With the establishment of a new political party, Chonburi’s powerful Kunplome family is hoping a visage of independence from Thailand’s warring red and yellow factions will lead it to solid wins in July’s national elections.

Sonthaya Kunplome, banned from politics for five years after serving as a Tourism & Sports Minister in Thaksin Shinawatra’s disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party, announced May 6 the formation of “Palang Chon,” or the “Force of Chonburi” Party to a crowd of about 20,000 supporters.

The Palang Chon Party team is introduced to a large crowd at their party formation celebration in Bangsaen.The Palang Chon Party team is introduced to a large crowd at their party formation celebration in Bangsaen.

As he cannot hold office again until at least the end of 2012, Sonthaya said Chao Maneewong, former dean of Burapha University, will lead the party, with the eldest Kunplome brother serving as “advisor.”

At the press conference in Bangsaen, Sonthaya said he hopes to see Palang Chon win as many as 15 seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The party will contest elections in Thailand’s east, north and northeast, although most expect the party to gain most of its wins in Chonburi, where his brothers Wittaya and Itthiphol are, respectively, CEO of the Chonburi Administrative Organization and mayor of Pattaya.

In Chonburi, the party will put up candidates in all eight constituency zones, including Sonthaya’s wife, Sukumol, in zone 6, which covers the Banglamung/Pattaya district and Poramet Ngampichet contesting in zone 7. Poramet is the son of Sansak Ngampichet, former health minister and former chairman of the house committee on tourism and sports. Sansak was also named as a party list candidate.

The party will also invite five members of the Social Action Party, which was founded by Kukrit Pramoj in 1974, to join them. The party advocates social conservatism, pro-free-enterprise fiscal policies, and capitalism.

The Kunplome clan has been a force in Chonburi politics for four decades with Somchai “Kamnan Poh” Kunplome fathering four sons who’ve gone on to positions of power on the provincial and national political theatre.

The family has long maintained a position as a small faction of whatever national party held power, but retained its local influence in large part to its independent streak.