Chadchart comment on lese majeste sparks reaction

Chadchart comment on lese majeste sparks reaction

Bangkok governor-elect Chadchart Sittipunt visits a political activity at Ratsadon market, at Suan Kru Angoon in Thong Lor area in Wattana district, on Sunday. (Photo from @FriendsTalk4 Twitter account)

A comment on lese majeste made by Bangkok governor-elect Chadchart Sittipunt in response to a question has drawn reaction from camps supporting and opposing the law.

Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa said in a post on Facebook on Monday the Article 112 [lese majeste law] issue was back in the spotlight of mainstream media after Mr Chadchart aired his opinion on the matter.

Mr Chadchart stopped by at Suan Kru Angoon in Thong Lor area in Wattana district on his way home on Sunday, to visit a political activity at Ratsadon market.

He was asked by Thammasat University student activist Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul for his opinion on the lese majeste law.

Mr Chadchart said all sides should to refrain from using the law as a political tool, as the first step to ending political divisions in the country. He was of the view that attempts to abolish the law were extreme and would never be a win for campaigners.

Any change would need patient and strategic moves, he said, and gave his eight-year wait for a comeback in politics as an example.

Mr Chadchart was the transport minister under former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose cabinet was overthrown by the military coup on May 22, 2014 led by then-army commander Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is still the prime minister.

Eight years later, on May 22, he swept the gubernatorial poll with the unofficial result showing him the most popular candidate ever for the top job at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Arnond Sakworawich, a royalist and lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration, on Monday interpreted the governor-elect’s remark as being against the highest institution, despite his being a recipient of an Ananda Mahidol Foundation scholarship.

Mr Chadchart graduated from the engineering faculty of Chulalongkorn University and received the prestigious scholarship in 1986 to pursue his post-graduate study in the United States. He received a master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.