Chai Chidchob has passed away at the age of 92. "Poo” (or Grandpa) Chai may have been respected for his seniority and experience, but he was best known as the father of Newin Chidchob, who in 2008 led his faction of MPs out of the Thaksin camp to enable Abhisit Vejjajiva to form a government without winning an election.
Born on 5 April 1928 in Surin Province, 4 years before the democratic revolution, he finished high school at Surawittayakarn School. He started a profitable rock-quarrying, milling and gravel-hauling business and a political career as 'kamnan’ (sub-district headman) in Buriram, the province which later became his political stronghold.
He joined the Democrat party to run for MP in 1957 but lost the election. He won an MP seat when running again as an independent in 1969. Since then, he won 9 elections as a member of lower and upper houses for 7 different political parties.
When the 1997 Constitution instituted the requirement that in order to become an MP, you needed a bachelor degree, he got two: one in political science at Ramkhamhaeng University, and one in agriculture at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. He also got a master’s in political science at Ramkhamhaeng.
He was House Speaker from 2008 to 2012 during the killings of the 92 Red Shirt protesters under the Abhisit government. He was known for his sense of humour, which he put to good use when tensions rose in parliamentary meetings.
He stayed away from politics for a while after the military coup in 2014. In May last year, Chai came back again as a party-list MP and presided over the first parliament meeting in 5 years as the interim House Speaker, based on his seniority.
Married to La-ong Chidchob, Chai was the father of 5 sons and 1 daughter. The most prominent is Newin Chidchob, at one time the right hand of Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001-2006. However, after the military coup in 2006 and the dissolution of the People’s Power party in 2008, Newin led his ‘Friends of Newin’ faction, which included Chai, out of the Thaksin camp to form the Bhumjaithai Party which promptly joined a coalition government with the Democrat Party under leadership of Abhisit Vejjajiva. This brazen switch of loyalties earned Newin the nickname 'cobra.'
Chai in fact had given him the name ‘Newin’ because of his admiration for Ne Win, the military dictator of what was then Burma from 1962 to 1988, a revealing insight into his political philosophy. Moshe Dayan, the Israeli war hero and politician, is also Chai’s favorite – he liked him so much that he nicknamed himself “Chai Moshe.”
Chai is also the father of Saksayam Chidchob, the current Minister of Transport.