It is rare for Thai politicians to voluntarily leave their seat, let alone a coveted cabinet post. But that’s exactly what Deputy Home Minister Nipon Boonyamanee did last Monday.
A top Democratic Party coalition official, Nipon has resigned to face trial in criminal court for bribery and embezzlement misconduct.
The case stems from his role as Director General of the Provincial Administrative Organization of Songkhla. In 2013, he refused to pay 52 million baht for the PAO’s purchase of two road maintenance trucks, arguing that bidding on the contract during his predecessor’s tenure was tainted with collusion.
Nipon, 64, said he decided to step down to avoid criticism and focus on the trial.
In recent memory, three Thai politicians quit key political posts to “prove their innocence” over the allegations – then Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin in November 2008, Minister of Social Development and Human Security Witoon Nambutr in February 2009, and Minister of Public Health Witthaya Kaewparadai in December 2009.
Interestingly, all were prominent figures from the Democratic Party, Thailand’s oldest political party.
Witoon resigned a month after Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Democrat-led government was formed in December 2008, amid a corruption scandal involving rotting canned fish given to flood victims. He denied knowing how bad cans of fish, which made dozens of rural residents violently ill, were turned into packages distributed to flood victims by his ministry in the South.
“My resignation is a painful decision because I was in no way involved in this,” Witoon said, insisting he quit voluntarily and not under pressure from his party.
Witthaya, also a member of Abhisit’s cabinet, resigned several months later after an investigation found he had been negligent in managing an 86 billion baht procurement project.
“I want to show responsibility to the public,” he said when announcing his decision.
‘No evidence of wrongdoing’
Former Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, another Democratic figure and their Cabinet colleague at the time, pointed out years later that investigations by state agencies had found no evidence of wrongdoing against Witoon and Witthaya.
“They simply resigned to protect the administration in which they served and to allow their names to be cleared in order to prove that no mistake or corruption had taken place,” Korn said in a letter to a Thai newspaper in August. 2015, while still with the Democratic Party.
Korn was responding to an editorial in the newspaper which claimed that “not a single Thai minister has ever resigned his post to take responsibility for a mistake made under his jurisdiction”.
Establish a political standard
Apirak’s resignation came just a month after he was re-elected governor of Bangkok in October 2008, and a day after the National Anti-Corruption Commission implicated him and his predecessor, Samak Sundaravej, in a buyout. controversial Austrian fire trucks and boats. during Samak’s tenure.
In resigning, Apirak insisted he was innocent and had full faith in the justice system.
His decision was hailed by then-Democratic leader Abhisit. “Apirak’s resignation set a standard that many people want to see in Thai politics. It is commendable and he deserves the moral support of the society,” Abhisit said.
In September 2013, the Political Office Holders Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court found Apirak not guilty on the grounds that he had simply followed the terms of the purchase agreement that came into effect before he took office.
From the South
Nipon was born on July 22, 1958 in the southern province of Songkhla into a family of Chinese descent. He earned a Bachelor of Laws and a Masters in Economics from Ramkhamhaeng University, as well as a Masters in Public Administration from the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).
After serving in the provincial administrative organizations of Songkhla for two terms, Nipon set his sights on national politics. He was first elected Member of Parliament for his native province in 1992 under the Democratic Party and was re-elected for seven further terms.
Under the Democrat-led government, he was appointed Secretary to the Attorney General in 1994 and Deputy Secretary General to the Prime Minister twice in 1999 and 2000.
Nipon was also elected to the party’s executive council three times, serving as deputy general secretary twice in 2005 and 2011, and as deputy party leader under current leader Jurin Laksanawisit.
In May 2013, Nipon resigned as an MP to contest a local election for the post of general manager of Songkhla PAO, which he won. He left the seat in June 2019 to be appointed deputy interior minister in the current coalition government led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk