Proving that the former military junta leader who put Bangkok and Pattaya’s mayors in office isn’t ready to let his men go, the Cabinet on Tuesday indefinitely postponed long-overdue elections in both cities.
Former general Prayut Chan-o-cha, who appointed Aswin Kwanmuang Bangkok’s governor and political ally Sonthaya Kunplome as Pattaya’s mayor, is letting both men stay in office until “sometime” in 2022.
Pattaya has not had elections for mayor and council members since 2012 and Bangkok since 2013.
Both city elections were supposed to have been rubber-stamped by the Cabinet on Tuesday when the Interior Ministry proposed Nov. 28 as the election date for the two cities and subdistrict administrative organizations nationwide.
Cabinet ministers approved the SAO polls and directed the Election Commission to set a time in November or December for the vote, but put the kibosh on the Pattaya and Bangkok polls, claiming Covid-19 as a reason, despite already having held elections during the pandemic.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the SAO elections will play out in 5,300 municipalities.
The postponement of the Bangkok and Pattaya elections is particularly onerous for the Chonburi city, as it is without a working city council after it disintegrated last month.
Only three of the 12 council members named by the junta in 2016 remain in office and all are “lame ducks”, unable to hold meetings pass any legislation or budgets.
Three years of attrition had left the city council with only six members when the panel met Aug. 12. After an intense and acrimonious debate over a proposal to spend 200 million baht on new closed-circuit television cameras, half the six resigned in protest.
Unable to form a quorum, the council collapsed. But council Chairman Anan Angkanawisan – who was accused of inappropriate legislative action by the resigning members – and councilmen Thanet Supornsahatrangsi and Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn decided to stay on as caretakers and oversee ongoing projects.
The last time Bangkok voters got to exercise their democratic rights to city leaders was July 2012, when Sukhumbhand Paribatra won re-election by a landslide. But he was removed by junta leader Prayut in 2016 for basically opposing the coup and defying the insecure general.
Prayut then elevated previously appointed deputy governor Aswin to governor. Aswin, has run the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration amid much criticism ever since.