Buri Ram shapes as a key battleground
SPECIAL REPORT: Despite the Newin factor for the Bhumjaithai Party, Pheu Thai thinks it can win one third of the seats in this crucial province.

Published: 22/06/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

Buri Ram may be known as the home turf of the Bhumjaithai Party - its de facto leader Newin Chidchob hails from the province which has returned him to parliament every election since 1985 until his political ban - but the Pheu Thai party aims to carve out as much as one third of the nine House seats up for grabs in the province.

Sophon Phetsawang, a former Buri Ram MP and now a Pheu Thai list candidate, said his party was confident of victory in constituencies 6, 7 and 8.

In Constituency 6, Pheu Thai has fielded Pornchai Srisuriyanyothin, former vice-president of the Buri Ram provincial administrative organisation. Ironically, the candidate used to work for Mr Newin, an influential figure in this northeastern province. Mr Sophon said the candidate was popular among voters there.

Mr Pornchai defected to Pheu Thai after Bhumjaithai decided not to field him.

If Mr Pornchai manages to clinch victory, it would be due to three factors: his popularity, Mr Sophon's support base in Nang Rong district and the popularity of Pheu Thai and Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Sophon said Mr Pornchai could beat Bhumjaithai's candidate Traithep Ngamkamol whose elder brother is deputy governor of Buri Ram.

In Constituency 7, Pheu Thai has fielded Nudaeng Wankangsai, a former MP candidate who has strong voter support in Nong Ki district, which has the highest number of eligible voters among the four districts in the constituency.

In Constituency 8, Pheu Thai's Kachornthon Judto, a former MP, can defeat Somnuek Hengwanit, also a former MP who defected from Bhumjaithai to the Chart Pattana Puea Pandin Party, Mr Sophon said.

He predicted Mr Kachornthon will win in Ban Kruat district, while Mr Somnuek should take Lahan Sai, his home district. The deciding factor will be how people in Non Dindaeng district vote.

The voter base for Rungroj Thongsri, the Bhumjaithai's candidate in Constituency 8 is outside the constituency, so his chances are not promising.

Meanwhile, Sanong Thep-aksornnarong, Bhumjaithai's candidate in Constituency 1, predicted his party would win seven out of nine constituencies in Buri Ram because Mr Newin had worked for the province for a long time and had good ties with locals.

Mr Sanong is upbeat about victory in Constituency 1, saying he has been assisting area residents there for more than two decades.

He also said Bhumjaithai could put up Mr Newin's father, former House speaker Chai Chidchob, to counter Pheu Thai's attempt to raise the profile of Yingluck Shinawatra, the party's choice for prime minister.

The party is telling Buri Ram residents that Mr Chai has been working for them for a long time.

Mr Sanong admitted the Pheu Thai candidate in Constituency 6 had strong voter support and that Mr Rungroj's voter base is Prakhon Chai which is not part of Constituency 8.