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Chontida Asavahame: The young politician on a mission to revive political dynasty

Written by World Events

File photo : Chontida Asavahame//MCOT

Chontida “Pleng” Asavahame gave up her chance to become Thailand’s youngest party-list MP in January, instead taking on the tough mission of reviving her family’s fortunes in local politics.

At 29, Chontida would have been a “baby” in the House of Representatives had she opted to replace Bhumjaithai senior figure Saksayam Chidchob, who was forced to give up his seat after being found guilty of share concealment on January 17.

The Constitutional Court ruled that while serving as transport minister in the previous government, Saksayam violated the law by holding shares in Burijarearn Construction Ltd and running the firm through a nominee.

Chontida was next in line to replace him on Bhumjaithai’s party list. But she opted instead to quit the coalition party and pursue her political journey in local politics in Samut Prakan – her home province and her family’s political stronghold.

Walking with her mother

Chontida has decided to pursue her political career alongside her mother, former singer Nantida Kaewbuasai, who has been chief executive of the Samut Prakan Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO) since her election in December 2020.

Nantida’s four-year term ends in December and nationwide PAO elections are due in late January or early February next year.

“Today I choose to join my mother as part of Progressive Samut Prakan. My vision as a young generation member will be dedicated to working for Samut Prakan residents. This is because Samut Prakan is my home,” she posted on Instagram after quitting Bhumjaithai.

Progressive Samut Prakan is a local political group previously led by her late father Chonsawat Asavahame, who died suddenly of heart failure after suffering heatstroke in March last year.

Tough challenges ahead

The young politician will be aware that her mother faces tough competition from the popular Move Forward Party, which swept all eight MP seats in Samut Prakan at last year’s general election. Move Forward is expected to contest for the PAO chief executive’s seat.

In the last PAO election, in 2020, Nantida easily defeated her competitor from the Progressive Movement, a non-parliamentary ally of Move Forward. She won 341,504 votes – almost five times more than the 74,531 votes for her opponent.

Nantida’s crushing win owed much to the political machine built by her former husband, Chonsawat, who was then the chief executive of Samut Prakan PAO.

Before his death at age 54, Chonsawat led Progressive Samut Prakan to several victories in local and national elections, before Move Forward rose to prominence.

His political dynasty won six MP seats in Samut Prakan in the 2019 general election while also holding key local administrative posts, including that of PAO chief executive and city mayor.

Eye on young voters

With the departure of its patriarch, the task of resurrecting Progressive Samut Prakan lies with Nantida, her daughter, and their political allies.

Chontida will be crucial to that mission, attracting the youth vote that her mother needs to win the next PAO election. The young politician was recently spotted alongside her mother on visits to communities in the province.

Chontida was born on December 15, 1994, in Bangkok as the only child of Chonsawat and Nantida. Her nickname, “Pleng” (“song”) was reportedly inspired by her mother’s singing career and love of music.

Nantida was an award-winning singer in her youth and became one of Thailand’s most popular divas before entering politics.

After graduating from Ruamrudee International School, Chontida obtained a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Chulalongkorn University. She later earned a master’s in real estate development from the University of Westminster in London.

She debuted in the entertainment business at the age of 18, showcasing her singing and dancing talent in the television series “My Melody 360”. She went on to star in several television series, films and stage plays. In 2015, she won the Suraswadi Award for “outstanding female rising star”.

In July 2021, Chontida was appointed by her mother as secretary to the PAO chief. She joined the race for votes as Bhumjaithai’s party-list candidate in May last year but narrowly failed to win a seat.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk

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