Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn joins crowded field of candidates for Pattaya mayor

Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn a Pattaya city councilman since 2016, announced his candidacy under the Pattaya Ruam Jai group founded by his brother and former Pattaya mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn.

Mayor Sonthaya won’t stand; taps ex-MP Poramet

Pattaya’s appointed mayor Sonthaya Kunplome will not stand for election, instead tapping a former MP to run in the May 22 poll against a growing field of big names.

The May 22 poll is perhaps the biggest test ever for the Kunplome clan, which has ruled Pattaya and Chonburi for three decades. While Kunplome family members or their proxies faced opposition before, contenders never really had a chance.

The coronavirus pandemic and, before that, the 2014 military coup, has changed the landscape, however. Sonthaya’s brother, Itthiphol, was mayor when current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha overthrew the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra and installed himself as the head of a military junta. Sonthaya joined forces with Prayut to soften up Chonburi for his election as prime minister and was rewarded in 2018 by Prayut appointing him Pattaya’s mayor and then repeatedly delaying city elections to keep him in office.

Poramet Ngampichet, a former Chonburi MP will stand for mayor under Sonthaya Kunplome’s “Rao Raksa Pattaya” party.

Sonthaya has since presided over the economic collapse of Pattaya during the pandemic, at the same time, garnered substantial criticism over chronic flooding and never-ending roadwork.

Unwilling to run on his record and face the wrath of voters, Sonthaya tapped Poramet Ngampichet, a former Chonburi MP and now an assistant to Culture Minister Itthiphol, to stand for mayor May 22.

Poramet was elected to the House in 2011 under the banner of Kunplome family’s Palang Chon Party, which then aligned itself with the Pheu Thai Party. After Yingluck and Pheu Thai were ousted from power, Poramet bobbed around the Chonburi political scene and until taking low-level ministry positions under the junta and the Palang Patcharath Party that succeeded it.

The former MP is the son of the late Santsak Jaroon Ngampiches, a former MP and deputy health minister in the Thaksin Shinawatra government, and the brother of former Pattaya Business & Tourism Association president Ekasit Ngampichet.

The man Ekasit succeeded at the PBTA in 2017 – Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn – will oppose his brother in the mayoral contest. Sinchai, a Pattaya city councilman since 2016, was announced March 23 as the candidate for the Pattaya Ruam Jai group founded by his brother and former Pattaya mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn.

Sakchai Taengho, former Banglamung District chief announced his independent candidacy last week, calling the city broken and in need of his extensive experience.

Niran, who preceded Itthiphol as mayor, is no fan of the Kunplomes and regularly has criticized Pattaya’s management under Sonthaya. Niran came out of his 2004 retirement to get active in city politics again after, he said, getting bombarded with complaints about Pattaya’s direction and pleas to run again.

Also unhappy with the Kunplome administration is another prominent ex-local leader, Sakchai Taengho, Banglamung District’s chief executive in 2013-14. He announced his independent candidacy last week, calling the city broken and in need of his extensive experience.

Finally, the progressive movement’s Move Forward Party also will contest the mayor and council election with lifelong Pattaya resident Kittisak “Bob” Ninwattanatochai heading a slate of fresh, young faces.

The common thread linking Niran and Kittisak’s campaigns are that Pattaya should be managed by Pattaya residents. The Kunplome family’s home is in Saen Suk, Chonburi.

“Local problems must be solved by local people,” Sinchai said March 23, echoing his party’s mantra. “During the past several years, we have received complaints and requests to look after people and solve problems in this city because people are facing many problems in their career paths and lives after two years of Covid-19 restrictions.

Lifelong Pattaya resident “Bob” Ninwattanatochai heading a slate of fresh, young faces will contest the election under the Move Forward Party

“Now Pattaya is an abandoned city with no tourists,” Sinchai said. “Moreover, the streets are filled with construction sites, with open sewers and broken sidewalks. So we formed a group of people born in Pattaya to solve those problems.”

Niran said his party’s slate of mayoral and council candidates are a “new generation” with experience in both politics and business. The son of a Naklua Market vendor, Sinchai is the managing director for the Flipper Hotel group and, besides the PBTA, he sat on the Tourism Council of Thailand and volunteered with the Sawang Boriboon Thammasathan Foundation.

Move Forward also touts the business credentials of its candidate, Kittisak. Not a politician, Kittisak made his mark in the Thai banking world before retiring and becoming a freelance photographer.