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Chat Thai (CT) Party
Chart Thai Pattana Party / Chathai Pattana (Thai National Development)

Chart Thai (translates as "Thai Nation," but invariably referred to by its Thai name in the English press), sometimes called the "generals' party," was founded in 1974 by a group of retired generals and was led until July 1986 by Pramarn Adireksan, retired major general and former president of the Association of Thai Industries and the Thai Textile Association. Aggressively anticommunist, Chart Thai was backed by a number of prominent industrialists. After the July 1986 election, it was led by retired General Chatichai Choonhaven, whose relationship with Prem was friendly.

In the 1980s, the military dominance in politics, however, seemed to be undergoing some change, partly because the officer corps was not as cohesive as it had been previously and hence was less able to impose its will. For example, the lack of unity among the officers and their allies in the Senate and the political parties was largely to blame for the failure to amend the Constitution in 1983 (see National Assembly , this ch.). Factionalism continued unabated, particularly between members of Class Seven and of Class Five of the Chulachomkhlao Royal Military Academy. The relative influence of these factions was reflected in the annual reshuffle of the military high command-- the traditional barometer of real political power--announced each year in September. By 1983 the Class Five faction, sometimes known as the "democratic soldiers" group, seemed to be particularly influential.

Another factor bearing on the military's changing political role was the generals' own growing perception that a coup was undemocratic, if not uncivilized. As a result, an increasing number of generals and colonels in retirement chose to involve themselves in party politics. In the election held on April 18, 1983, for example, the Chart Thai Party captured 73 of 324 seats in the House of Representatives--nearly twice its 1979 total. Led by Major General (retired) Pramarn Adireksan, this party had a large number of retired military officers. After the election, the Chart Thai Party emerged as the top party in parliament with 108 seats by absorbing independents and other minor party members. Nonetheless, it was not included in Prem's fourth coalition cabinet. This exclusion reportedly was because of the party's aggressive postelection maneuvers for what it claimed as the moral right to form a new government. Such aggressiveness antagonized other parties, which wanted Prem for another term as their consensus prime minister. Prem's fourth coalition consisted of four parties: Social Action Party, Democrat Party, Prachakorn Thai (Thai People) Party, and National Democracy Party.

The Chat Thai (CT) leader in 2005 was Banharn Silapa-archa, a veteran Thai politician and former prime minister whose political savvy and money held the party together. CT had registered 2,340,000 members. Its parliamentary strength in 2005 was 41 MPs (35 Constituency and 6 Party-List), with the core of its regional strength located in Thailand's Central region, especially in Suphan Buri province.

Chat Thai has downsized considerably since the Banharn-led administration left power in November 1996. The almost immediate departure of most members of the Sanoh Thienthong faction (which later joined TRT) and other groupings of parliamentarians reduced the CT voting bloc significantly. For a time, CT political influence was based on MPs from Suphan Buri and Chon Buri provinces. Shortly before the January 6, 2001 parliamentary election, Newin Chidchob, an up-and-coming (some say "infamous") MP from Buriram, brought four MPs from the defunct Solidarity Party (SP) into CT.

But most of this Buriram faction, including Newin, succumbed to the blandishments of a persistent TRT courtship in 2004 of MPs from other parties. Banharn also lost heavily from the Chon Buri faction and now presides over a CT that seems really only to have a safe hold on parliamentary constituencies in Supan Buri province. That said, Banharn remains one of Thailand's most tenacious traditional politicians, a survivor who seems to know which wheels to grease to keep a political machine rolling effectively.

In February 2005 the Chart Thai party, erstwhile coalition partner of the TRT, unofficially won about 31 seats in Parliament, including what appears to be a clean sweep of its Suphan Buri stronghold in central Thailand. The party also picked up a seat in Bangkok, its first in about 20 years. Flamboyant massage parlor tycoon Chuvit Kamolvisit, who joined the party following his strong showing in the 2004 Bangkok gubernatorial race, appears headed for Parliament as a party list candidate. Initial vote counting of the nationwide party list ballots indicates that CT will get up to eight of the allocated 100 seats. Chuwit was listed 6th on the CT list.

Thaksin, exuding confidence in the days before the election and not in a conciliatory mood, told crowds of supporters that he did not need CT's partnership, no longer trusted CT leader Banharn Silpa-archa, and would not invite the CT into his government this time around. On 06 February 2005, Thaksin reportedly said that he would consult with Banharn regarding TRT going it alone in the next government. Banharn could be looking at a spell in the opposition camp. Hinting in this direction, Banharn told the media that, though he would keep his earlier promise to support Thaksin for prime minister when Parliament reconvenes, he also acknowledged his party's duty to help bolster the system of checks and balances to counter the government.

By 2007 Chart Thai was known for reflecting the notorious pragmatism of its Party Leader, on whom the party depended for its continued viability. As of 2007 Chart Thai was aligned with the Democrat Party and against PPP; Banharn had been publicly supportive of the coup and critical of Thaksin. Chart Thai picked up momentum by absorbing the (very small) Mahachon Party and attracting some high profile former Thai Rak Thai figures.

On behalf of their parties, Chart Thai Pattana de-facto leader Banharn Silpa-archa and Bhumjaithai de-facto leader Newin Chidchob took an oath on 14 March 2011 that both parties would from then on share the same political standpoint and that all decisions would be mutual regardless of the election result. Together, the parties have set a target to gain over 100 MP seats, which would help boost their bargaining power dramatically.




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