Newin and Abhisit

3 08 2010

Everyone recalls the wonderful picture of Abhisit Vejjajiva and Newin Chidchob embracing when the former became prime minister following the military-brokered deal to get the Democrat Party leading a royalist government.

Just a few days ago, PPT posted about Newin, referring to him as a banned political turncoat, vote-buyer and local mafia-like figure from Buriram. But did anyone think that Newin was arguably the most important figure in the government coalition? Well, maybe some did, but here is proof of his power and influence.

The Bangkok Post reports that Thai Airways International President Piyasvasti Amranand has had to defend his plans for a new no-frills spin-off from TG. He rushed to see Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, Transport Minister Sopon Zarum and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban “in a bid to clarify the need for Thai Tiger Airways, which was approved by the THAI board on Saturday…”.

And who else did he contact? Newin! Why? For one thing, Sopon is Newin’s man in a ministry and Transport is a big money-spinner. Notorious vote-buyer Newin needs money to fight the next election.

And a second consideration is that Newin has business interests involved. The Post reports that Sopon criticised “the THAI plan at the behest of Mr Newin, who feared it could eat into the business of Thai AirAsia, with which he has a close connection.” Apparently Newin and Sopon believe that “Thai Tiger Airways will compete directly with Thai AirAsia, which now dominates low-cost air travel in the region.” THAI actually rushed to get a signing agreement on television in an effort to evade the Newin-Sopon lobbying.

Newin is critical for the Abhisit government. He’s the only powerbroker capable of putting together any kind of challenge to the Peua Thai Party in the northeast whenever an election is held. If he gets a few more seats, the current regime might continue. With the regime giving billions to the military and handing out billions in populist schemes, how much are they prepared to shovel into Newin’s coffers?

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