AKHON NAYOK/BANGKOK – The Bhumjaithai Party, also known as the Thai Pride Party in English, is marching into the May 14 election with its head held high after having fulfilled its campaign pledges – most notable of which was to liberalise the cannabis policy in Thailand.
Under the leadership of construction magnate-turned-politician Anutin Charnvirakul, the party is heading into the election with confidence.
It has set its sights on winning at least 100 of the 500 seats up for grabs in Parliament’s Lower House and, if successful, will cement its position as a key power broker in a post-election coalition government.
Even its 2023 election slogan – “Said it and did it” – exudes its levels of certainty, especially over its performance during its four years in the incumbent coalition led by the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).
“With our remarkable performance, we (have) delivered everything that we promised to our people. This will create confidence in our people to select the Bhumjaithai Party, to elect Bhumjaithai back into Parliament, in hopes that we will be able to be part of the administration,” Mr Anutin told The Straits Times on the sidelines of a rally in the central province of Nakhon Nayok last Tuesday.
The successful move to decriminalise the plant is a badge of honour for the party. And this narrative as an effective policy-pusher has primed the Bhumjaithai as a possible power broker in Thailand’s next government, with rumours swirling over its purported deals with rival parties as the nation’s general election draws close.
During the 2019 election, the party campaigned heavily on the promise to liberalise cannabis in Thailand for medical and economic benefits.
In 2022, the plant was delisted as a narcotic, opening a new market for its wider cultivation and use.
However, the Bhumjaithai has also received flak from rival parties and welfare groups, which criticise the move as rushed and incomplete.
Currently, a Bill to regulate the cannabis industry is pending Parliament’s approval, and a patchwork of laws are being used to curb the sale of the substance to minors and prevent users from smoking it in public. The Bhumjaithai has promised to ensure the Bill’s passing if it returns to the government in the coming election.
“We were able to deliver every policy that we promised to our people. It was successful during our term. From here on, there will be a few more new policies that will be very beneficial to the Thai people and Thailand,” said Mr Anutin, who is also a deputy prime minister and public health minister.
Addressing the residents of Nakhon Nayok province, a largely agricultural community, he highlighted campaign plans to support farmers through a contract-farming model and free life insurance for those aged over 60.
The party is also championing a three-year debt moratorium and free solar panels to lower electricity bills as part of its election promises.
“We do not offer discounts, exchanges or giveaways, but we try to support the well-being of the people. Our policies are long-term and not short-term… The important thing is to deliver what one said they would do, and our party has done just that,” Mr Anutin told the crowd that packed the hall.