Newin Chidchob was born into a provincial strongman family. Newin's father, Chai Chidchob – established politician and businessman, started of as a village headman and eventually grown to positions of national stature. In business, Chai established an enormously profitable rock quarrying business called Rongmohinsilachai.
Newin divorced his first wife to marry Karuna Supha – daughter of a powerful provincial business tycoon from the north. In the run up to the 1995 no-confidence debate against the Democrats, Democrat Party member Sanan Kachornprasart, accused Newin of blatantly influencing the bidding process for the Klong Siyad dam project in Chachoengsao province – a bid that his father-in-law’s company, Chiang Mai Construction Co., initially won.
Key points to Newin’s political success lies on:
- broad-based provincial patronage network – enables Newin to win votes and elections and gives him the ability to build and control a faction of MP’s that he can leverage inside political parties and in the parliament
- tremendous personal wealth – creates personal prestige and allows Newin to support, expand, and defend his patronage network (money can buy power and power can generate more money and then buy more power...on and on)
- political experience – his family’s long-held control over Buriram province provides him with all of the advantages that come with political incumbency
- political acumen – Newin knows how to successfully cut deals, discredit opponents, exploit opportunites, and roll with the political tide. His ability to portray himself as a loyal defender of rural interests scores him big points with provincial voters.
Regardless of how perfect Thai Constitution is, still in the base of electoral process are the local political patrons together with arrogant officials and mafia bosses who take advantage of the rural-based, poor and ill-educated voters, 40 million or so of them. These patronage-based electocracy have Parliament and the executive branch in their palms.
In political terms, whenever there is an election, we say it nicely that finally the voice of the people has been heard because a voter has cast a ballot. But in reality, Thai politics are rigged. No matter political reforms, changes or improvements, or even a coup d'état, the old politico faces will return to haunt the nation. For the time being, the Thai "democracy" is hopeless.
In real terms, rural Thais learned the hard way, unless they sold their votes at election times, they would have no other tangible benefits from the system. And they, the electorate majority, are the rock-solid electoral base that secured the victory of the local politico. Provincial strongman, typically a faction leader, simply sells his team of MPs to the highest bidder.
Newin Chidchob along with Banharn Silpa-archa, Suthep Thuagsuban, Pinij Jarusombat, Snoh Thiengthong, Somsak Thepsuthin, Suwat Liptapalop, as well Thaksin Shinawatra and others are at the front line to benefit from patronage-based Thai political system.
As a member of the notorious Group of 16 faction, Newin played a leading role in the 1995 investigation and no-confidence debate that discredited the Democrats and led PM Chuan Leekpai to dissolve the House and call for a snap election. The debate focused on alleged corruption in the Sor Por Kor 4-01 land reform scheme in Phuket.
Days prior to the 1995 general election in which Newin run under the Chart Thai banner, police arrested vote canvassers, reportedly under Newin's arm, with ฿11 Million ($456,000) in ฿100 and ฿20 notes. The canvassers claimed the money was to buy land. The following year a Buriram judge ruled that the canvassers intended to buy votes, but acquitted them since they had "not yet bought votes" when they were arrested. The ruling was later overturned and the vote canvassers were sentenced to 1-year in jail and had their political rights suspended.
During the May 1996 no-confidence debate, the Democrat Party made a strong case that ministers from the Group of 16 faction, namely Newin and Suchart Tancharoen colluded with officials from the Bangkok Bank of Commerce (BBC) to obtain dubious loans. Newin, Banharn, and Chucheep Harnsawat escaped grilling because the Democrats ran out of time – the Banharn government refused to give them an extension to continue the grilling.
After Banharn’s dissolution of the House in September 1996, Newin and politico under his wing joined the Solidarity Party to run in the November 1996 General Election. Newin won re-election and served in the opposition during the NAP-led government of Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.
Following the collapse of Chavalit’s government, Newin and the Solidarity Party joined the Democrat-led coalition. On 13th November 1997, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai appointed Newin to the post of deputy agriculture minister. Newin kept a relatively low profile while with the Democrats, even receiving words of praise for his performance from Chuan and others.
On 19th June 1998, the Buriram Provincial Court handed Newin a suspended six-month jail sentence and a ฿50,000 fine in a vote-buying slander case filed by Democrat MP Karun Sai-ngam. A year later, the Constitutional Court ruled 7-6 that Newin could keep his ministerial post.
Newin opted to move under the Thai Rak Thai umbrella following the 2001 elections. Formerly one of Thaksin’s close associates and the leader of a group of politicians, in 2008, following the disbandment of PPP, 22 PMs of his Friends of Newin Faction defected to the Democrat-led coalition government headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Newin denied that he was behind the Blue Shirts, commenting: "I am cursed. Previously, when the Red Shirts moved, [it was said that] it was me. Today, with the Blue Shirts, it’s me again. So be it! But please care for the country. Don’t make trouble in Pattaya."