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Suwit sees his chance

The leader of the Puea Pandin party says difficult times prepared him for politics - and a decade in parliament has honed him for the premiership

Published on November 14, 2007

Suwit sees his chance

THE BUZZ OF optimistic he’ll play a major role in the next government – if not the supreme role. He explains why in a chronicle of his decade in politics, just unveiled at a Central World Plaza bookstore.

Suwit Khunkitti is quite confident he's going to be Thailand's next prime minister, even if he's currently flying under most people's radar.

The leader of the Puea Pandin - For the Motherland - party is genuinely brimming with confidence. The day before he and his colleagues registered as party-list candidates, Suwit launched an autobiography called "Pen Pai Dai Ta Jai Soo", which translates as "For his country, one man will achieve the impossible". It covers his experiences in politics over the past 10 years.

"I usually believe that no news is good news, so I stay out of the news - that's why nobody knows what I'm up to now!" he laughs.

He's making sure everyone knows now what he's up to, though, with the book, in which modesty plays no part. It's chock-full of self-praise.

Suwit casts himself as meditative, self-disciplined and fluent in English, as well as a clever mimic of Mexican, Portuguese and even an American southern drawl. At one point he says he's sorry he left the US because he could have competed against Arnold Schwarzenegger for the governorship of California.

Suwit claims to have done his share of scrubbing floors, stretching the reader's belief since he was born to a well-to-do family in the petrol business. As a teenager he planned to move into the family business by running a gas station in Khon Kaen. But instead he joined his brother at Kemper Military School and went through a lot of physical torment - "100 push-ups and running all the time".

He did a series of lowly jobs so he could study chemistry at the University of Kentucky and buy a cheap Chevrolet.

"If my staff, my driver or the people who work in the gas station knew that I used to clean toilets and pick up cigarette butts they'd probably laugh, but I probably did more than they've ever done," he says.

Suwit's ambition had been to become a doctor, and he took premed at the military academy, but he decided that the

competition was too tough and opted for chemistry instead.

All the hard work and scrambling has prepared him mentally and physically for politics, he says. There was a time when he disdained politicians, thinking they were all covered in muck, but when he returned from the US and saw his homeland again, he decided he'd try and make things better.

He was elected to parliament in 1983, representing Khon Kaen.

"At that time there was no money involved in that kind of politics," he says. "The people just love you - they know who you are and how close you are to them."

In a television interview last week Suwit was asked what he would do if a member of his party were caught buying votes. He wouldn't even know about he, he replied, since the members are scattered across all the regions.

It was a non-committal answer to a moral question.

Suwit maintains that he has the qualifications needed to serve as prime minister - vision, courage and decisiveness. Being effective in a crisis situation is crucial, he says, and in his book he mentions helping out the tsunami victims.

"I probably have more

experience in politics than any other party leader at the moment," he says.

"I've been deputy prime minister five times, I've been the head of seven ministries, in parliament I was twice chairman of standing committees, I'm involved with economic and social-development programmes, science technology, social issues, agriculture and even justice."

Before any problems can be solved, Suwit says, Thailand needs political stability. Inter-party disputes have to be resolved.

Then the economy needs fixing.

Lisnaree Vichitsorasatra

 The Nation

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