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Fugitive Politician Vatana Asavahame Wields Power from Exile


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Even at the age of 87 and living in exile, Vatana Asavahame, former deputy interior minister of Thailand, remains an influential figure in the country's political landscape. Known as the “Godfather of Pak Nam,” Vatana has demonstrated his enduring clout by orchestrating political moves from afar.

 

Earlier this month, Vatana publicly supported Sunthorn Pansaengthong, former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister, urging him to run for chief of the Samut Prakan Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO). This province, located next to Bangkok, has been a stronghold for the Asavahame family for decades.

 

Currently, the PAO is headed by Nantida Kaewbuasai, who previously married Vatana’s late son, Chonsawat Asavahame. Nantida’s term ends in December, and Vatana has evidently decided that his long-time aide, Sunthorn, should take over the role. "Sunthorn has had my support since 1975," Vatana stated, "and he embodies the ideology of my political clan."

 

Vatana's influence in Samut Prakan began in 1975 when he was first elected as an MP. Re-elected nine more times, he served in multiple cabinet positions including deputy industry minister and deputy interior minister. He also facilitated the political careers of his sons, Poonphol and Chonsawat.

 

However, Vatana’s career saw a dramatic fall when he was implicated in the Klong Dan Wastewater Treatment Project scandal, which cost Thai taxpayers about 23 billion baht. In 2008, the Supreme Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison for abuse of power; Vatana fled the country before an arrest warrant could be issued. Later, in 2018, he was sentenced to an additional three years in jail for another corruption charge.

 

Despite these legal woes, Vatana continues to exert his influence. A recent video posted by a Samut Prakan provincial councillor showed Vatana at a party, promoting Sunthorn’s election bid. The footage stirred rumours that he had returned to Thailand, but sources confirmed the event took place at Vatana's residence in Cambodia.

 

This episode confirms that Vatana’s political legacy and clout remain potent, even as he resides in a neighbouring country.

 

Wattana Asavahame; File photo courtesy; Wikipedia

 

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-- 2024-06-22

 

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7 hours ago, webfact said:

The footage stirred rumours that he had returned to Thailand, but sources confirmed the event took place at Vatana's residence in Cambodia.

 

I don't get it. The story below says that he was at Sunthorn's new house in Thailand, and even spoke to media there...

 

https://aseannow.com/topic/1329354-former-deputy-interior-minister-vatana-returns-home-after-16-years-in-hiding/?utm_source=240610-11

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18 minutes ago, jippytum said:

 Old politicians in Thailand when their greed and corruption are exposed simply abscond to another country but sadly still have influence from abroad. 

 

And here's another example, spent 17 yrs in self exile, since returned in dubious circumstances charges massively reduced, now able to walk around / talk freely, now regularly featured in Thai news and seems to have quite some power (and he's a billionaire, the adage money = power comes to mind).

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4 hours ago, khunjeff said:

 

I don't get it. The story below says that he was at Sunthorn's new house in Thailand, and even spoke to media there...

 

https://aseannow.com/topic/1329354-former-deputy-interior-minister-vatana-returns-home-after-16-years-in-hiding/?utm_source=240610-11

 

That story was a rumour

 

11 hours ago, webfact said:

A recent video posted by a Samut Prakan provincial councillor showed Vatana at a party, promoting Sunthorn’s election bid. The footage stirred rumours that he had returned to Thailand, but sources confirmed the event took place at Vatana's residence in Cambodia.

 

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