IN 1969, a quietly-spoken lawyer of modest origins from the southern province of Trang turned his back on the legal profession to stand as a candidate for the Democrat Party. He was duly elected and continued to be so in all eight of the subsequent elections in Thailand, up to the most recent two years ago in which, as leader of the most successful party, he was able to form a coalition government and assume the premiership. In the 25 years that he has served as a Democrat Member of Parliament, Chuan Leekpai has earned a reputation as a fine orator and, more significantly, a man of exceptional integrity. He weathered with distinction testing years during the early 1970s, when the military regime branded him a dissident, and more recently upheavals created by bloody demonstrations. Mr Chuan has served in a number of governments in senior positions, including those of education minister, justice minister, commerce minister, agriculture minister, house speaker and deputy prime minister. When he formed his five-party government two years ago, few people gave him any chance of seeing out a year, let alone his full four-year term. However, Mr Chuan has weathered a number of potentially devastating crisis, ranging from wrangles over a new constitution, no-confidence debates to soothing the fractious squabbles among his partners in government.