DEMOCRAT PARTY CONVENTION
Abhisit vows fresh start, honest govt
Leader pledges to offer new style of leadership, review privatisation deals
In a message of hope and reconciliation, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday he was ready to rise above the bitter political wrangling and lead the country to new heights of democratic rule.
"Today is not the time for political quarrel but for all sides to heed His Majesty the King's advice and to untangle the political mess," Abhisit said at the party's annual convention at the Emerald Hotel.
The country has been mired in crisis because of misrule, and the party is ready to put this situation behind us and move on to face the country's challenges, he said.
Abhisit vowed that if the Democrats took power he would review the privatisation of state enterprises, introduce an economy based on self-sufficiency and sustainability, clean up the government, and provide a leadership without conflicts of interest.
In allaying fears that the Democrats might seek to undo all the policies implemented by the Thai Rak Thai Party, Abhisit said they would make improvements to the mega-projects while keeping the benefits gained from Thai Rak Thai's populist policies.
The convention was buzzing with campaign talk as the Democrats geared up to rejoin the electoral process.
The courts are expected to invalidate the general election of four weeks ago and Abhisit has emerged as a top contender to take the prime ministership in a new vote.
Diplomats from 34 countries also attended the convention as observers at the invitation of the party.
In his keynote speech, Abhisit focused on his future course of action rather than dwelling on the problems associated with the recent election. "The ongoing crisis is not just about politics but all aspects of society," he said.
To overcome the crisis, the country needs a problem-solver who will not allow vested interests to cloud his judgement, he said, in a veiled criticism of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
"If the Democrat Party wins the people's mandate, I pledge to offer a new style of leadership that allows for the people's participation in an honest government," he said.
He said he was aware of his flaws but was ready to lead the next government after his 15-year political career.
Under a Democrat leadership, basic utilities like electricity and water supplies will not be privatised, he said, promising not to pass on the burden of costs to the people.
Following royal advice, the economy is to be restructured for self-sufficiency, doing away with the reliance on public debt to fuel growth, he said.
"The benefits from certain populist policies, such as the Bt30 healthcare scheme, the Village Fund and the SML [Small Medium Large] scheme, will not be cancelled but improved," Abhisit said.
Populist policies will be implemented to serve the public, not as a publicity stunt to boost the popularity of a leader, he said.
With regard to the government's mega-projects, he said it would be necessary to involve foreign investors and that he would strive for tangible implementation rather than simply creating a pipe dream.
"It is pointless to keep speculating when and how to begin the construction of new electric train routes," he said.
"By way of example, the Bangkok governor, Democrat Apirak Kosayodhin, has already unveiled a concrete plan to extend the Skytrain route to Thon Buri."
Touching on social aspects, Abhisit said he would mobilise society to oppose all types of corruption and wasteful spending.
The party will also give education top priority.
Underprivileged students will be able to avail themselves of concessionary loans to further their studies and the government will implement a truly free compulsory education system by banning all hidden charges, he said.