BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Property tycoon Srettha Thavisin (pci) sent shockwaves through Thailand late last year with tweets hinting he was eyeing the post of prime minister under the Pheu Thai banner.
“I’m already with Pheu Thai,” Srettha posted, in reply to a Twitter user who suggested he would be a popular PM candidate for the opposition party.
In a subsequent Twitter message, Srettha ridiculed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha without naming names.
“In the past six to eight years, our country’s leader has not led Thailand in the global forum. The next leader will need to have guts to speak out on the world stage.”
The message went viral and was seen as Srettha’s declaration he would run for prime minister.
At the start of this month, it became clear he would be on the list of Pheu Thai’s three PM candidates along with Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of party patriarch Thaksin Shinawatra.
On March 1, Srettha visited Pheu Thai headquarters to be formally ushered into the party as chief adviser to Paetongtarn in her role as head of the Pheu Thai Family.
A day later, expectations were heightened when Pheu Thai appointed him as a member of the party’s economic team.
Srettha then appeared to confirm his bid to become Thailand’s next leader in a recent interview, saying:
“It requires great sacrifice to be the prime minister, having to work 24/7. I admit I’m addicted to a comfortable life. If I decide to work as PM, I must sacrifice myself.”
But observers are still wondering whether Srettha is merely on the list to boost Paetongtarn’s bid, or is it the other way round?
Before the emergence of Srettha, 36-year-old Paetongtarn was the top choice for next prime minister in most surveys of public opinion.
But her popularity is up against the formidable management skills of Srettha. Some analysts believe Thaksin has lined up Srettha to take the prime minister’s post after Paetongtarn’s popularity helps the party win a landslide victory.
Paetongtarn admitted herself on March 4 that Srettha is suitable for the top executive post.
“He is a capable person with a lot of skills. This can be seen from his success in the business world,” she said.
On March 9, Srettha took two steps seen as preparations for his campaign to lead the country.
He took unpaid leave as CEO of property developer Sansiri Plc and he transferred his 661,002,734 Sansiri shares to his daughter, Chanada Thavisin.
Srettha told Nation Group in a recent interview that he would urgently address four issues if he leads the next government.
He would make the need to increase people’s income a national agenda.
His government would amend the Constitution and improve Thailand’s international influence and standing on the global stage.
Finally, he said his government would push for better rights and equality for minorities including LGBTQ people.
The 60-year-old billionaire property tycoon was born on Feb 15, 1963.
He obtained a Master’s in finance from Claremont Graduate School in the United States.
Srettha began his career in 1986 as an assistant manager of P&G (Thailand) Co Ltd. He later entered the property development business and climbed the ladder to become Sansiri president and CEO.
With Srettha at the helm in 2021, Sansiri reported revenue of 29.747 billion baht and profit of 2.017 billion baht.
Although many believe he is Pheu Thai’s “real PM candidate”, only time will tell whether Srettha is “the one”.
Observers said Thaksin’s choice will become clearer when Pheu Thai announces its third PM candidate.