Chachoengsao: Chaturon Chaisaeng speaks again

On December 19, 2007, advertising trucks announced yet another supposedly non-partisan campaign event by members of the “House number 111″ group, especially the local hero, Chaturon Chaisaeng, and his political pal, Adisorn Piangket. Picture 1 shows such a truck parked near sala thai, while its driver played football with his friends on the adjacent multi-purpose field, which is used as a sports ground by many groups in the evenings. He provided me with the leaflet shown in picture 2. The headline says, “From the heart of Chaturon to the people of Chachoengsao.” The text reflects what he had said in his speech on December 12.

Picture 1

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

Picture 2

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

I saw this truck when I was observing the final campaign speech event organized by the constituency committee 2. About 20 people, most of them connected to the two parties (three candidates) that had turned up, formed the audience. By contrast, the Chaisaengs meant business. The square between sala thai and the provincial hall was full of occupied chairs. I counted 2,000 of them (50 rows of 40 chairs), but two people involved with the Chaisaengs’ election campaign independently told me that they had arranged for 3,000 chairs. It is possible that I had somehow miscounted the number. In addition, there were many people in the back and on both sides of the square. Thus, the audience was probably around 4,000 people. I local stringer told me that 200 baht of “gasoline money” had been paid to many of the participants. This is quite possible as well as usual, but, of course, there is no proof. I suggested to the kamnan, who I had mentioned in my first post on Chaturon, that such a large number of people required some mobilization. His answer was, “We have phoned each other in our phakphuak (local informal political clique). Indeed, when the event was over, one could see many pick-up trucks leaving the area loaded with groups of people.

Of course, one of the prominent participants, who did not have to be mobilized by any special incentives, was Chaturon’s father, Anand Chaisaeng. Picture 3 shows him framed by the wife of his mayor-son (right) and her sister (left). The other man in the picture used to be a provincial councilor and was the failed candidate of the family in the Senate races of 2000 and 2006.

The local press was also out in full force. Picture 4 shows a local stringer for a number of national papers in action. In picture 5, we see a group of listeners on the lawn next to the asphalted square.

Picture 3

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

Picture 4

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

Picture 5

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

The theme of the banner used as backdrop of the stage (picture 6) had been adjusted to the theme of the leaflet. It reads, “From the heart of Chaturon to the people of Chachoengsao.” She speaker here is Adisorn Piangket. He loves a colorful and attacking style, much different to the more academic approach of Chaturon, and is thus quite entertaining for the audience, which would respond with applause many times. Adisorn praised Thaksin Shinawatra and Thai Rak Thai’s great policies, and he thanked the people in the audience that they had elected TRT. He could not talk about another party, because this might lead it to be dissolved by the election commission. In fact, the ECT should be dissolved instead-a remark that prompted laughter and applause. Adisorn implored the audience that they should not harm Chaturon but take good care of his younger siblings-a reference to Wuthipong and Thitima. If not even one of them would make it to the House, this would be rather bad. He was missing Thaksin, who was not an evil person but a good one. At the end, Adisorn narrowed down the election of December 23 to a choice between democracy and dictatorship.

Picture 6

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

Picture 7

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

Picture 7 shows Chaturon at the beginning of his speech, still adjusting the microphone and handling the many garlands he received, while picture 8 shows him making one of the points “from his heart to the people.” Some sections of his speech were similar to what he had said at the earlier event.

Picture 8

Michael H. Nelson, Chachoengsao province, Thailand election campaign, December 2007

This time, however, he also attacked the redrawing of the constituencies by the election commission. In particular, Chaturon attacked the inclusion of Thatakiap district in constituency 2. One could not even travel from the supposedly connected Plaeng Yao district to Thatakiap but had to travel through Sanam Chai Khet district, which was part of constituency 1. Another important issue was that he attacked “the opposition” in the election campaign for having resorted to heavy vote buying. Obviously, he could not mention any names in this context. However, it was clear enough to observers and the audience that this had to be a reference to Phanee Jarusombat, the main competitor of Wuthipong and Thitima. She had not only widely been tipped to come first in constituency 2, but had also been connected by a number of observers to an assumed heavy use of money in the Senate race of 2006, and then in the House election.