Candidate petitions court to nullify results of FTI election

The battle for the chairmanship of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is set to heat up, as one candidate has petitioned the Central Administrative Court to nullify last week's election results at Thailand's largest private organisation.

Last week, the majority of the FTI's 348 committee members threw their support behind vice-chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree, making it likely that he would have a landslide victory in the elections for the new chairman set for April 8.

Although the other key candidate, vice-chairman Visit Limprana, accepted the results and vowed to work together with Mr Supant, his supporters are not willing to reconcile.

Teerawut Prakaysantisuk, Mr Visit's legal adviser, said yesterday that the elections were not conducted transparently, as the voting process was not conducted secretly.

However, there is a high possibility that the court will turn down the petition, meaning the April 8 election would ahead will go ahead, he added.

Internal conflicts highlighted when joint candidates Suraporn Simakulthorn and Adisak Rohitasune filed a motion with the court seeking an injunction in the election in 2012, during which Payungsak Chartsutthipol was selected as the chairman.

The court turned down the petition, arguing that there might be problems in the administrative work and public services of the FTI.

Supporters of Mr Visit have been campaigning to oust Mr Payungsak, citing his failure to assist small and medium-sized enterprises.

Kietphong Noichaiboon, a former secretary-general and vice-chairman, said the FTI has been extremely weak over the past eight years due to its lack of unity.

"Instead of the FTI providing advice and opinions to the government, it was the other way around," he said.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) is seen as stronger in terms of bargaining power and unity, added Mr Kietphong.

Mr Visit's willingness to reconcile is a positive sign that the 7,000-member organisation will bounce back from eight years of internecine strife that has seen one side stepping down after losing the elections.

"It's Mr Visit's supporters who have problems, not Mr Visit himself," said Mr Kietphong. "They have lost their power, and they want it back."

But Mr Kietphong said the FTI had an important role in the past and had more power than the TCC due to its large size.

"FTI members were factory owners. We own a lot of assets, while TCC members are only traders," he said.

Patikarn Mahuttanaraks, an FTI director, is also optimistic that the conflicts will come to an end as only a few people are not able to accept the loss in the election.

"Mr Visit is a gentleman and is willing to work together [with Mr Supant]," he said.

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