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Young First-Time MPs Keen to Be Friends Despite Political Divide

BANGKOK — When Taopiphob Limjittrakorn, a first-time MP from the Future Forward party went out to meet his constituents – who were complaining about dust from nearby condominium construction – one man said Future Forward’s leader is a communist.

Taopiphob, 30, an MP for Khlong San district in Bangkok, reminded the man that the war on communism ended three decades ago. He said that if the citizen was affected by the condominium construction, he was willing to represent him.

Newbie members of Parliament from the Phalang Pracharath, Pheu Thai, and Future Forward parties have told the press they are seeking friends from the opposing political camp and will serve voters regardless of who they voted for.

“As an MP, I represent my district, regardless of whether someone voted for me or not. I represent women as well,” Thanikan Pornponhsaroj, 38 and a Phalang Pracharath Party MP, said during a panel at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on Wednesday evening.

Although Pheu Thai and Future Forward are aligned, Phalang Pracharath is on the opposite end of the political spectrum in being led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the junta leader-cum-PM.

“I am open to everyone. I gave my mobile [number] to everyone, though nobody calls,” Taopiphob said.

Taopiphob took pundits by surprise by winning in his district in the March election – a man once arrested for brewing beer in his own home is now sitting in the legislative assembly. Taopiphop formerly ran a vaporwave cafe serving craft beer, which was closed last year. Even Taopiphop himself couldn’t believe his electoral victory, tweeting in March that “a political miracle has happened!”

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Saratsanun Unnopporn, a first-time MP from Khon Kaen though also the descendent of a local political dynasty, has found herself the spokesperson of Pheu Thai’s youth wing. Though Pheu Thai is a polarizing party, she says that hasn’t stopped her from connecting with MPs from her generation even across the political divide.

“We speak the same language. And that’s a good thing, right?” Saratsanun said.

The young MP went on to express her disagreement with the junta-appointed Senate, calling it “absurd”.

“There are good and qualified people but I don’t like the process,” she concluded.

None of the MPs said they desire a new round of elections soon, despite the polarizing nature of the Prayuth Chan-ocha administration.

“I hope it’s going to last,” Thanikan said of the new government, adding that it’s best for the Kingdom to progress step by step.

Taopiphob, though agreeing that a return to elections would not be fruitful, predicted that the political situation “will get ugly fast”. Saratsanun meanwhile foresees a fierce struggle over the state budget in Parliament soon, as well as conflict within the governing coalition.

Additional reporting Asaree Thaitrakulpanich


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