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Democrat leader Jurin seeks support in South

Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit is heading to the far South to monitor border trade and build political ties amid growing speculation of a challenging time in the next elections for the country's oldest party as it continues to lose members.

Mr Jurin is touring Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. As commerce minister, he will also review border trade through the Tak Bai and Sungai Kolok checkpoints in Narathiwat, Darunwan Charnpipatthanachai, party deputy spokeswoman, said on Saturday.

The party has chosen potential candidates to run in the three southernmost provinces.

Ms Darunwan said the party was confident its MPs will be re-elected and that it will win more seats in the polls tentatively scheduled for May 7 next year.

Reports suggest the Democrats, however, could suffer heavy defections as heavyweight members are considering moving to other parties.

On Monday, Pongsin Senpong, a former Democrat MP candidate, said he and the other Senpongs who are members of the party have decided to leave for good. His older brother, Thepthai Senpong, previously served as the party's MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat, the Senpongs' traditional stronghold.

The Democrats were reluctant to let him stand in the next poll after the party found in a survey that Mr Pongsin's popularity rating had sagged. Mr Pongsin stood and lost in the by-election in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Constituency 3 in March last year.

Earlier he admitted he and his siblings were seriously mulling a switch to the Ruam Thai Sang Chart (RTSC) Party. Mr Pongsin said he and his siblings have been treated with respect by Witthaya Kaewparadai, a core member of the RTSC, himself a former veteran Democrat politician.

Last week, it was rumoured that Democrat deputy leader Sathit Pitutecha, also deputy public health minister, was also being offered membership in the coalition Bhumjaithai Party. Mr Sathit denied he was parting ways with the Democrats although he admitted the party's rating has taken a slide and that its leader was uncharismatic.

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