Prinn Panitchpakdi: Thailand’s rising political star overshadowed by sex offense charges

Accusations of sexual harassment and assault leveled against a rising star in the Democratic coalition have shocked not only party supporters but Thai society in general.

Prinn Panitchpakdi quit his post as deputy Democratic leader on Thursday (April 14) along with other party posts, including that of campaign leader for the May 22 elections for governor and Bangkok city council.

His resignation came just two days after an 18-year-old woman filed a police complaint accusing him of groping and kissing her at a restaurant in Sukhumvit against her will. After reports of the allegation became public, more women emerged to press charges against the politician.

serious charge

Among his accusers is Hathairat “Anna” Vidhyaphum, who married estate scion Tanat Thanakitamnuay in January. She said Prinn sexually assaulted her in March 2021 at an apartment in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit district.

Prinn, 44, denied the allegations – which left him “shocked and stunned” – and vowed to fight the case and clear his name.

“I am innocent. The allegations are baseless. People who know me know well that I am not that kind of person,” he said.

Democratic spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said Prinn would be kicked out of the party if his internal investigation finds him guilty.

Meteoric rise

Prinn joined the Democrats less than three years ago and rose to prominence quickly. In May 2019, he was named deputy party leader and head of its “Avengers” economic team. His promotion came thanks to Jurin Laksanawisit, who had just been elected as the new Democratic leader.

Jurin also picked Prinn as an adviser after the Democrats joined the governing coalition following the March 2019 general election.

Prinn has a strong background in economic affairs. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He then worked as an investment banker in London and Hong Kong, before taking up management positions at Tisco Bank and CLSA Securities (Thailand).

Prior to entering politics, he served as a director and advisor to several national agencies and organizations, including the Federation of Thai Industries and the Association of Thai Securities Companies.

Former deputy Democratic leader turns himself in to Thai police to face sexual assault charges

Dad is his idol

However, Prinn’s critics attributed his meteoric rise in the Democratic Party to the reputation and power of his father, Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Supachai, 75, is a big name in Thai politics. He served as Deputy Prime Minister in the Democratic-led government led by Chuan Leekpai from November 1997 to November 2000.

Two years later, he was elected Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), serving between September 2002 and September 2005. Soon after, Supachai was appointed Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), serving for two terms from September 2005 to August 2013.

After becoming Deputy Leader of the Democrats, Prinn told reporters that his father was his idol although he had no intention of following his political style.

He also defended the party against criticism that he was a political “dinosaur” afraid of change. He bragged that his own rise proved Democrats fit the times.

“Actually, it has changed. Khun Jurin was brave enough to appoint me deputy party leader – the first in the history of the Democratic Party to assume this position as soon as I left the private sector,” Prinn said almost three years ago.

At that time, he was considered one of three promising new generation politicians with the potential to become party leader.

The other two were Parit Wacharasindhu, nephew of former Democratic leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, and Fuadi Pitsuwan, son of the late former Foreign Minister and ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan. Parit and Fuadi have since left the Democratic Party.

Prinn’s main focus while serving on the Democratic coalition task force was a project to find jobs for new graduates and another to combat the oversupply of mangosteens. He also pushed for tax exemption on cryptocurrencies to promote the new digital asset industry.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk

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