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Southern Muslim politicians to set up ‘neutral’ new party

THE WADAH group of Muslim politicians, backed by local residents and former MPs in the three southernmost border provinces, has resolved to form a new political party to contest the next election, a member said yesterday.

They seem to be buoyed by the region’s votes against the junta-backed constitutional draft in the 2016 referendum, according to political observers, who said that many votes would come from people who dislike the junta. And the new electoral system, in which “every vote counts”, should help them gain more MP seats than in previous elections, the observers added. Najmuddeen Uma, a former Matubhum Party MP for Narathiwat, said the group was in the process of compiling a list of at least 500 co-founders for the new party, as required by law. Their new party would be registered under the name “Pracha Chat”, which literally means “nation”, he said.
The politician said a recent survey of more than 1,000 local residents in the Muslim-majority southern border provinces found that about 70 per cent of respondents agreed that Muslim politicians should have their own political party. Prominent members of the Wadah group include former House of Representatives speaker and former transport minister Wan Muhammad Noor Matha, former deputy interior minister Den Tohmeena, and former deputy education minister Areepen Uttarasin. Wadah was a faction within the New Aspiration Party and became part of the Pheu Thai Party after NAP was merged into Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party, which was Pheu Thai’s predecessor. Some of the group’s members also joined Matubhum Party, which was formed by former coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. “We discussed this matter with former MPs from the Wadah group and former MPs in the three southern border provinces from other political parties. And they agreed with the idea,” Najmuddeen said. He also said the new party would take a neutral stance regarding the ongoing conflict in the deep South, which has left thousands of people dead following attacks by insurgents. “We see that nobody knows the problem better than us,” he said, adding that the Wadah group had previously implemented many policies to tackle problems in the region. Meanwhile, the Democrat Party deputy leader, Nipit Intarasombat, said yesterday that he saw only “little impact” of a new Wadah party on his own party. “Wadah doesn’t reflect the real identity of the southern border region,” he said. The Democrats have won most – and sometimes all – MP seats from southern provinces in previous elections. NTN EP

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