On May 15th, Pita Limcharoenrat, the leader of the Thai Progressive Party, made a remarkable declaration on Twitter, stating, “I am prepared to assume the role of Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister… Whether you agree or disagree, I will become your Prime Minister. Regardless of whether you vote for me, I will serve you.”
This unique proclamation reflects his strong determination to oppose the military junta in Thailand.
In 2006, former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was attending a conference in the United States when a coup d’état orchestrated by the military and the royalists forced him out of power and into exile. Since then, Thailand has witnessed a series of military-backed prime ministers, including Thaksin’s sister and brother-in-law, who were briefly elected as prime ministers but swiftly removed from office.
However, the military junta’s rule has failed to gain popular support, as their use of force has not improved the country’s economy or quality of life. Against this backdrop, Thailand’s opposition party, the Progressive Party, achieved an impressive voter turnout of 75.22% in this year’s lower house elections held on May 14th. This outcome positions Pita Limcharoenrat, the leader of the Progressive Party, as the highly probable candidate for the next prime minister of Thailand.
Undoubtedly, the path ahead is bound to be challenging, but as of now, the chances of success seem promising.
As of May 19th, ten political parties in Thailand, all opposed to the military government, have announced their formation of an alliance, declaring their intention to jointly establish a coalition government. They have expressed their support for Pita Limcharoenrat to assume the role of the new prime minister.
If all goes smoothly, the 42-year-old Pita will become Thailand’s youngest prime minister. With various labels attached to him, such as a top MIT graduate, Harvard alumni, and a successful entrepreneur of the post-80s generation, his illustrious educational background undoubtedly adds to his appeal in the political arena.
From Bangkok to Harvard and MIT: The Academic Journey of a Scholar
On September 5, 1980, Pita Limcharoenrat was born in Bangkok, Thailand. His father, a former advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture, later transitioned to business, while his uncle served as the secretary to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Growing up in such a family, Pita was acquainted with politics from an early age.
As the eldest son in his family, Pita was enrolled in Bangkok Christian College, one of Thailand’s prestigious all-boys private schools. Established in 1852, it is one of the country’s oldest private schools.
The institution adopts a bilingual approach, emphasizing English language education. From kindergarten to the 12th grade, the school offers immersive English language programs. While tuition fees are substantial, the institution has indeed nurtured numerous high-achieving individuals, including two former Thai prime ministers.
Pita Limcharoenrat’s exceptional academic performance set him apart, but his family was determined not to let him remain in a comfortable bubble. At the age of 11, Pita was sent to study abroad in Hamilton, New Zealand. He stayed with an ordinary middle-class family and took on part-time jobs, such as delivering newspapers or milk, during his free time to earn some money.
In the 1990s, television programs were not abundant in Hamilton. The options were either Australian soap operas or parliamentary debates. Pita, uninterested in soap operas, frequently tuned in to the speeches of the New Zealand Prime Minister. It was during this time that his initial interest in politics began to develop.
After completing high school, Pita returned to Bangkok, Thailand, and enrolled at the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, where he specialized in business and accounting. Thammasat University, the country’s second oldest university, has been the academic institution of choice for over 10 prime ministers and deputy prime ministers, earning it the moniker “the cradle of prime ministers.”
Pita’s academic achievements were outstanding. In 2002, he graduated with first-class honors, showcasing his dedication and intellectual prowess.
Following his undergraduate studies, Pita Limcharoenrat embarked on a new academic journey at the University of Texas at Austin in the United States. Simultaneously, he received a prestigious scholarship from Harvard University. This achievement was unprecedented at the time, as Pita became the first Thai student to receive a full international scholarship from an Ivy League institution like Harvard.
Subsequently, Pita enrolled at Harvard Kennedy School, pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy. His thirst for knowledge led him to also pursue an MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, during this period, his family faced unforeseen challenges.
Pita's Journey: Balancing Family Business and Academic Pursuits
At the age of 25, Pita Limcharoenrat faced a significant turning point in his life. His father, who had been managing a struggling rice bran oil company called Agrifood, passed away. Faced with the burden of family responsibilities, Pita made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend his studies and return home to salvage the family business. The banks informed him that he had only four months to turn the company around.
Pita’s practical knowledge and skills were put to the test. Taking on the role of CEO, he embarked on a mission to revive Agrifood within the given timeframe. Through sheer determination and strategic decision-making, he successfully reversed the company’s fortunes and, within two years, steered it back onto a path of stability and growth. Under his dynamic leadership, Agrifood has since become one of the largest rice bran oil producers in Asia.
Having successfully managed the family business, Pita felt the time was right to resume his academic pursuits. In 2011, at the age of 31, he achieved a milestone by earning a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Additionally, he obtained a Master’s degree in Business Administration from MIT. This academic feat demonstrated Pita’s unwavering commitment to personal growth and his ability to effectively balance family obligations and educational aspirations.
Pita Limcharoenrat, a prominent figure in the business world with an illustrious academic background, has garnered attention not only for his achievements but also for his striking good looks. It is no wonder that he quickly earned a place among the “50 Eligible Bachelors in Thailand.” For the upper echelons of Thai society, Pita embodies the ideal son-in-law: well-educated, successful in business, handsome, and composed.
However, at the time, Pita was already in a relationship with Thai actress Chutima Teepanart. They met through mutual friends, and despite their seven-year age difference, they connected effortlessly during their travels, eventually solidifying their romantic bond.
In December 2012, Pita and Chutima tied the knot, becoming a power couple that captured the local spotlight.
In the past, Pita Limcharoenrat was a vibrant young businessman who actively engaged with the online community. He frequently shared photos with his wife, Chutima Teepanart, on various social media platforms. As Chutima is a well-known actress, Pita garnered a significant following, particularly among enthusiastic young fans.
In 2016, Chutima Teepanart gave birth to a baby girl, bringing immeasurable joy to Pita Limcharoenrat’s life. Pita adores his daughter, Ayuwat, as if she were a precious treasure. He openly expresses his willingness to do anything for the sake of his child. Demonstrating his commitment to fatherhood, Pita actively participates in every aspect of parenting.
During this period, Pita Limcharoenrat’s career soared to new heights. The scale of his family business expanded significantly, and he also took on the role of Executive Director at Grab Thailand, a prominent ride-hailing giant in Southeast Asia. Pita showcased his exceptional business acumen, utilizing his talents to their fullest potential.
However, Pita’s marriage encountered difficulties. Chutima Teepanart accused Pita of domestic violence and filed a lawsuit, although it was ultimately dismissed by the family court on grounds of “falsehood.” Later, Chutima mentioned that physical violence might not have occurred, but Pita did cause her emotional harm.
In March 2019, this once highly publicized couple went through a divorce. Pita was granted sole custody of their daughter.
Pita Limcharoenrat: Making Waves in Thai Politics, a Resounding Election Victory
In 2019, Pita Limcharoenrat experienced a turning point in his life. Amidst his divorce, he embarked on a transition from the business sector to politics. Accepting an invitation from Thanathorn, the leader of the then-fledgling “Future Forward Party,” Pita stepped into the political arena as a representative in the House of Representatives. With his articulate speeches and handsome appearance, Pita quickly gained public support, leading to his successful election as a member of the lower house that year.
The “Future Forward Party” showcased impressive performance, briefly becoming the third-largest party in the House of Representatives. However, they soon faced retaliation from the military government. In 2020, the Thai Constitutional Court dissolved the “Future Forward Party” and banned its executives from participating in politics for ten years. Several party members, including Pita, had their qualifications revoked.
This moment ignited Pita’s determination. He delivered strongly-worded criticisms against the military in Parliament, capturing the attention of opposition figures. Just two weeks after the dissolution of the “Future Forward Party,” Pita was appointed as the new leader of the Progressive Party, with other dissolved members gradually joining its ranks.
As Thailand gears up for its quadrennial general election, this year marks Pita Limcharoenrat’s fourth year in politics and his first bid as a party leader.
The dissolution of political parties through stringent constitutional measures by the military government had already sparked discontent among many young people. Some even openly called for reforms to the monarchy, a taboo topic in Thailand that has led to numerous arrests and convictions in the past.
These incidents have fueled seeds of anger, prompting grassroots movements to support opposition parties. Among them, the most influential figures are Pita Limcharoenrat and Princess Petontan, the youngest daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Princess Petontan, representing the Thai Party, has gained significant support due to the influence of her father. Previously known in fashion circles, she embraced the socialite lifestyle. It is only in the past two years that she has stepped into the political arena.
Showing great determination, Princess Petontan continued to actively participate in campaign activities even during the late stages of her pregnancy. On May 1st of this year, she gave birth to her second child, and just two days later, she returned to the electoral race, appearing with her newborn son at a press conference.
Amidst growing public demand, Princess Petontan initially enjoyed significant popularity in the grassroots movement. However, Pita gradually emerged as a formidable contender. With over 1.3 million online followers, most of whom are young people, Pita has captured the frustrations of those weary of royal privileges, longing for democracy and freedom.
Seizing the momentum, Pita has proposed numerous policies aimed at reform. He advocates for the demilitarization of the state, decentralization of power, and breaking up monopolies. Pita envisions a new constitution drafted by the people, safeguards against military coups, and calls for reform within the monarchy, including the abolition of the crime of lese-majeste.
Amidst the disapproval of the royal establishment, Pita’s policies have gained significant traction among the younger generation. Simultaneously, Pita’s political party focuses on addressing economic and social welfare concerns, proposing initiatives such as childcare subsidies and welfare measures for the elderly.
As a result, Pita has emerged as an influential figure and a source of inspiration for young people. His eloquence, charisma, and policy agenda have garnered widespread popularity.
As Pita shares his political ideals, he also adopts a people-centric approach. Demonstrating his commitment to women and children’s rights, he includes his 7-year-old daughter in his election campaign. This gesture highlights his concern for the welfare of women and children. Addressing the allegations of domestic violence that surfaced in the past, Pita stated in an interview, “There has never been any domestic violence in my family. I firmly support the rights of women, families, and children. However, in someone else’s story, anyone can be portrayed as the villain.”
Pita’s former celebrity wife has also expressed her public support for him. In a social media post, she stated, “The past is in the past. Regardless, I will always cheer for the father of my daughter!” Despite their divorce, they continue to take family photos, both hoping for their daughter’s happiness and well-being.
On May 14th, the results of the Thai elections were announced, and Pita’s Future Forward Party secured a staggering 13.5 million votes, making it the largest party in the Lower House. Pita officially declared victory in the elections.
The Future Remains Challenging, but the Brave are Unfazed"
The Thai election process does not directly elect the Prime Minister. Instead, it involves the election of members of parliament and political parties, followed by a joint vote by the Lower House and the Senate to select the Prime Minister. Winning the election means that Pita has the potential to become the Prime Minister. However, to assume the role of Prime Minister, he needs to secure more than half of the 750 votes in both houses combined.
This is no easy feat, as the majority of the 250 votes in the Senate are controlled by military figures.
As of May 19th, a coalition of ten political parties has formed in the Lower House, deciding to jointly form a new government. With a total of 316 seats in the Lower House, they unanimously support Pita as the new Prime Minister. However, there is still a crucial gap of 60 votes needed to reach the required 376 votes. These 60 votes will determine whether Pita can successfully assume office.
The journey ahead remains challenging, as Pita and his supporters must work diligently to secure the necessary votes from both houses. The negotiations, alliances, and strategic maneuvers in the coming days will determine the fate of Pita’s bid for the premiership.
Undeterred by the obstacles ahead, Pita and his supporters demonstrate unwavering courage and determination. Their belief in democratic principles, social progress, and a brighter future for Thailand continues to drive their pursuit of a government that truly represents the aspirations of the people.
At the age of 42, whether Pita can become the Prime Minister still faces many uncertainties. While the military has promised not to stage a coup, the realm of politics and the future of a nation remain unpredictable.
What deserves our attention is the integral role that Pita’s prestigious education played in his electoral success. When his parents sent him abroad for studies, they could not have foreseen the complex circumstances of today. It is through their nurturing and emphasis on education that Pita gained a broader understanding of the world, providing him the opportunity to strive for a better future for himself and the nation.
The efforts made in one’s youth often find their way back in unique forms throughout life’s journey. The future remains unpredictable, but equipping children with knowledge and the courage to confront the unknown is the best investment we can make. This will empower them to showcase their unique qualities and capabilities as adults.
As Pita’s political journey unfolds, the nation watches with anticipation and curiosity. The outcome of the crucial votes in both houses of parliament will determine whether he can ascend to the position of Prime Minister. Regardless of the final result, Pita’s story serves as a reminder of the transformative power of education and the potential it holds in shaping the destiny of individuals and the nation as a whole.