Local news

Feature: From banana politics to banana farming

By Thai Newsroom Reporters

MP-TURNED-FARMER Boonmark Sirinaovakul says he has no idea whether bananas should be figuratively likened to cash which might possibly be handed out in hush-hush fashion to prospective voters or politicians in exchange for their votes at polling units or parliament.

But Boonmark says he himself has been literally tending to a banana plantation on the outskirts of the capital district of Ratchaburi where he was born and raised.

Not until after the 2019 election had the word “bananas” been used in Thailand’s political jargon to refer to hard cash which might allegedly buy votes among MPs on either side of the parliament chamber’s aisle, given a figurative manner in which those lawmakers might probably be compared to monkeys usually feeding on the yellow fruit. 

The ex-Democrat member who had been elected as MP in the 1995 and 1996 elections, had gone through thick and thin struggling to maintain his downtown constituency and was finally given a red card and 10-year ban on vote-buying charges in 2007 would have nothing much to say. 

Undoubtedly, the 66-year-old Boonmark says he has had enough of his political career though he could possibly contest the next race to parliament, given the fact that his 10-year ban has far expired. 

Little has the MP-turned-farmer known about fresh campaigns of a few contestants currently vying in a by-election for MP for Ratchaburi’s Constituency 3 covering Bhotharam and Jom Bueng districts, barely 30 kilometres from his downtown home.

A winning candidate will replace a notorious Pareena Kraikupt, who has lost her MP status and been banned from politics for life due to the convicted charges of encroaching upon a forest reserve to run a chicken farm in Jom Bueng district which used to be part of her own constituency.

Though one of the candidates is running under the tickets of his former party, Boonmark admits he could not keep himself abreast with the ongoing campaign, let alone canvassing one way or another probably for the Democrat contender, as the May 15 by-election date is approaching.

Boonmark says he is too preoccupied with his lucrative banana farming in 40 rai of land in Huay Phai subdistrict of the capital district of Ratchaburi to follow such a political business day in, day out.

Assisted by his spouse, Kalaya, and some farm hands, the MP-turned-farmer grows a medium-size plantation of bananas of Pak Chong 50 genus alongside pomelo and papaya orchards. 

Each banana tree at the Sirinaovakul farm produces 14-15 bunches of banana, each of which sells for an average of 15 baht, which is considered inexpensive, compared to those provided at domestic markets.

Whilst most bunches of his freshly harvested bananas are destined for major department stores in Ratchaburi and Bangkok, some are put on sale for a relatively low price at his roadside home in the downtown area of the western province.

Between his years in politics and those in the agricultural occupation, Boonmark has worked in academia at a few private universities, given a doctorate degree in engineering. He has assumed varied highly-placed posts ranging from a dean to assistant rector and rector.


Boonmark Sirinaovakul and his banana plantation. All photos: Naewna

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