Banharn Silpa-archa

Banharn Silpa-Archa
21st Prime Minister of Thailand
In office
13 July 1995  24 November 1996
Monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej
Preceded by Chuan Leekpai
Succeeded by Chavalit Yongchaiyudh
Leader of the Opposition
In office
27 May 1994  19 May 1995
Monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej
Preceded by Pramarn Adireksarn
Succeeded by Chuan Leekpai
Personal details
Born 19 August 1932
Suphanburi, Siam
Died 23 April 2016(2016-04-23) (aged 83)
Bangkok, Thailand
Nationality Thai
Political party Thai Nation Party
Spouse(s) Jamsai Silpa-archa
Profession Businessman, politician

Banharn Silpa-archa([1][2] Thai: บรรหาร ศิลปอาชา, rtgs: Banhan Sinlapa-acha, also spelled Banhan, Silapa-, Sinlapa-, -acha; Thai pronunciation: [banhǎːn sǐnláʔpàʔ aːt͡ɕʰaː], 19 August 1932 – 23 April 2016) was a Thai politician. He was the Prime Minister of Thailand from 1995 to 1996. Banharn made a fortune in the construction business before he became a Member of Parliament representing his home province of Suphanburi. He held different cabinet posts in several governments. In 1994, he became the leader of the Thai Nation Party. In 2008, the party was dissolved by the Constitutional Court and Banharn was banned from politics for five years.

Early life, education, and business career

Banharn was born on 19 August 1932 in Suphanburi to a Chinese merchant family.[3] His Chinese name was Tekchiang Saebe (Chinese: 馬德祥; pinyin: Mǎ Déxiáng;[4] Thai: เต็กเชียง แซ่เบ๊). He married Khunying Jamsai Silpa-archa and they have three children.[3]

Banharn dropped out of secondary school during World War II. He went to work with his older brother, then founded his own building company. Years later, when he was a politician, he completed his education at the open admission Ramkhamhaeng University, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1986, and finally a Master of Laws.[5]

Banharn's construction company was very successful in the 1960s, when large sums were invested into major infrastructure projects, including military facilities. His business made Banharn a billionaire.[5]

Political career

Banharn Silpa-archa was persuaded to enter politics by Booneua Prasertsuwan, a veteran member of the House of Representatives.[6] In 1976, Banharn Silpa-archa made his political debut when he was elected a Member of Parliament, representing Suphanburi province. He joined the Thai Nation Party, a conservative party dominated by the "Rajakru clan" around Pramarn Adireksarn and Chatichai Choonhavan. His party participated in a coalition government under Prime Minister Seni Pramoj and Banharn was appointed deputy minister of industry. He was elected to the Senate in 1977, but returned to represent his constituency in the House of Representatives the next year. Banharn was re-elected Member of Parliament for Suphanburi in all following elections, receiving steadily more than 100,000 votes (60 to 90 per cent of the votes cast), what made him one of the highest vote-getters throughout the country.[5]

He has sponsored the construction of schools, bridges and other infrastructural facilities in his home province, which in turn were named after him. This has led to the common saying that he "owns the province".[5] When his party was a junior partner in the government of Prem Tinsulanonda from 1980 to 1983, Banharn was Minister of Agriculture. In 1981, he became secretary-general of the Thai Nation Party. Banharn, being one of the main financiers of the party, accumulated considerable influence inside the party, although he was not a member of the originally dominant Rajakru clan. The local press has once dubbed him "Mr. (Mobile) ATM" (automated teller machine), due to the suspicion that he had bought the loyalty of political associates in exchange for money.[5]

In 1986 Prime Minister Prem again called him up to the government, this time naming him Minister of Transport. After his party had won the elections in 1988 and Thai Nation leader Chatichai Choonhavan had become Prime Minister, Banharn was appointed Minister of Industry. In January 1990, he switched offices with Pramarn Adireksarn and became interior minister. In December of the same year, Chatichai made him Minister of Finance. The Chatichai government was deposed by a military coup d'état in 1991. Banharn returned to the cabinet as early as April 1992, when he once again became Minister of Transport in the short-lived government of General Suchinda Kraprayoon. His party went into opposition after early elections in September 1992. Banharn took over the leadership of the Thai Nation Party from Pramarn Adireksarn in 1994 and also became official leader of the opposition.[3]


Under the leadership of Banharn, the Thai Nation Party won the parliamentary election in 1995, and he became the 21st Prime Minister of Thailand, leading a seven-party coalition. Banharn has been involved in numerous corruption scandals one of which diminished the concordance in his administration and caused him to resign.[7] His short-lived yet highly inept administration is also believed to have paved the way for the economic crisis of 1997.[8]

During a state visit by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in October 1996 he mistakenly referred to her as "Queen Elizabeth Taylor", receiving many ridicules and criticisms as a result.[9]

After premiership and death

Portrait of Banharn on a Thai Nation Party campaign poster for the general election 2007

On 21 January 2008, Banharn announced that his Thai Nation Party would join a coalition with the People's Power Party, successor to the Thai Rak Thai Party of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Because he had earlier vowed before the Emerald Buddha never to rejoin Thaksin because of the corruption scandals, this move has reinforced Banharn's image as a "Slippery Eel."[10]

Upon the dissolution of his Thai Nation Party by the Constitutional Court on 2 December 2008, Banharn Silpa-archa was banned from politics for five years. Non-executive members of the Thai Nation Party immediately founded the Chartthaipattana Party (Thai National Development), which is chaired by Banharn's younger brother, Chumpol Silpa-archa. Chumphol was Minister of Tourism and Sports in the cabinet of Abhisit Vejjajiva. His son Warawut was deputy transport minister, and his daughter Kanchana was deputy education minister.[11]

Banharn died from asthma on the morning of 23 April 2016 at Siriraj Hospital at the age of 83 years.[12][13]

Royal decorations

Banharn has received the following royal decorations in the Honours System of Thailand:


External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Banharn Silpa-Archa.
Political offices
Preceded by
Chuan Leekpai
Prime Minister of Thailand
Succeeded by
Chavalit Yongchaiyudh
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Chairperson of ASEAN
Succeeded by
Trần Đức Lương
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