As the general election approaches in Thailand, political dynasties continue to hold significant influence, with the Thienthong family being a prime example. With five members from this prominent family running for office in the upcoming election for two different parties, their name can be seen plastered on campaign posters throughout the rural province of Sa Kaeo. The Thienthong family, along with others like the Shinawatras, have managed to build successful businesses and maintain power in the region since the 1970s, with politics and family affairs often intertwining.
Families such as these are an integral part of Thai politics and offer voters a measure of stability and influence in a country that has experienced 12 coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. In a system where there was no rule of law, rich and powerful families like the Thienthongs flourished through their relationships with the military, police, and influential bureaucrats. This enabled them to establish control over local MPs and eventually enter politics themselves.
However, despite the Thienthongs’ decades-long dominance, the upcoming election may prove to be a turning point for these political families. With the younger generation growing increasingly attracted to parties with ideology and long-term programs, it is uncertain whether political dynasties such as the Thienthongs will maintain their grip on power.
Nonetheless, these families have demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability, consistently finding ways to navigate and survive the turbulent landscape of Thai politics. The Thintong family, in particular, has had members in the National Assembly and cabinet for nearly 50 years, solidifying their position as a staple in Thai political history.
For voters in rural provinces like Sa Kaeo, the track record on the ground is what matters most, and the Thienthongs’ deep connections to the area give them an advantage. Sirinthip Sawangkloi, a supporter of Treenuch Thienthong, highlights this point, saying, “They go down to every area and when there’s work or there are requests for help from the locals, they help.”
While the outcome of the upcoming election remains uncertain, what is clear is that political dynasties like the Thienthong and Shinawatra families have left an indelible mark on the landscape of Thai politics. As the country continues to evolve and adapt, it remains to be seen whether these families can retain their influence in the face of a changing electorate and a growing desire for political ideologies and long-term programs that resonate with the younger generation.