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BANGKOK 19 April 2019 09:33
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webfact

Thai voters voices: Old conflicts and new ideas

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Thai voters voices: Old conflicts and new ideas

 

2019-03-21T101533Z_1_LYNXNPEF2K0PV_RTROPTP_4_THAILAND-ELECTION.JPG

A woman looks at the candidate list of the upcoming Thai election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai voters head to the polls on Sunday for the first general election since a military coup in 2014. Though the contest broadly pits loyalists of the ruling junta against supporters of populist parties, many voters want change.

 

The political turmoil in Thailand over the past decade has been defined by massive street protests led by the mostly rural and urban working class "Red Shirts" and the more urban and middle class "Yellow Shirts".

 

The populist Red Shirts are supporters of the exiled ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the royalist Yellow Shirts strongly oppose Thaksin and tend to back the military.

 

Military coups have toppled two pro-Thaksin governments, one lead by Thaksin in 2006 and the other led by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014.

 

Kasem Fai-Ngam is a Red Shirt supporter who has participated in many Red Shirt protests. The 56-year-old motorcycle taxi driver said he used to be a construction worker, but had to change jobs after it became difficult to find work after Thaksin was ousted.

 

He said that he is hoping the election leads to a more transparent government with stronger checks and balances and a united Thailand with real democracy.

 

The proprietor of a small barbershop decorated with a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Wanlop Shanchan said he is a staunch supporter of the Thai monarchy and intends to support the incumbent prime minister and former army chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha in the election.

 

The pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party, led by a longtime ally of the ex-premier, is the main opposition to the Prayuth's pro-military party, Palang Pracharat.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, Palang Pracharat will have a built-in advantage under new electoral rules written by the junta.

 

Thailand's election also features an LGBT candidate. Assadayut Khunviseadpong, 38, is also known by her stage persona, Natalia Pilacam, who won "Drag Race Thailand" last year.

 

She is running with a smaller party, the Palang Thong Thin Thai Party, on a platform to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights and gender equality.

 

Though Thailand has built a reputation as a place with a relaxed approach towards gender and sexual diversity, there is strong disapproval of her candidacy among conservative Thais.

 

"I think the society is more open minded and I want to break people's bias on genders. I want to prove that I can join politics even though my gender is different, because it is in my rights as a Thai citizen," she said.

 

Times may be changing. Of the 50 million eligible voters, over one quarter are voters aged between 18 35 years. Of those, seven million are eligible to vote for the first time.

 

Young Thais have become more politically aware and active than they have been at any time since state forces crushed student pro-democracy movements in the 1970s.

 

People like 20-year-old Phupa Phuwadonanon were seen as politically apathetic for years, turned off by the years of paralyzing street protests.

 

Phupa, a first time voter, said, "I'm bored with Thai politics in the past 10 years". He said he is looking for an alternative party because the old players will lead to the same cycle of protest and coup.

 

(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-03-22

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2 hours ago, webfact said:

Phupa, a first time voter, said, "I'm bored with Thai politics in the past 10 years". He said he is looking for an alternative party because the old players will lead to the same cycle of protest and coup.

pity expats can't vote; bet they would overwhelmingly do so for future forward

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47 minutes ago, YetAnother said:

pity expats can't vote; bet they would overwhelmingly do so for future forward

Now who is stating the obvious 😉

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17 hours ago, webfact said:

Phupa, a first time voter, said, "I'm bored with Thai politics in the past 10 years". He said he is looking for an alternative party because the old players will lead to the same cycle of protest and coup

Looking for a party that will be difficult to overthrow.  Appreciate his point to view, but the Thai people must tell the army to stop with the coups. 

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I am sure that Prayut will be manpulated back into office (which he has never left, of course). However, I think this year will see some opposition to the inevitable militarist government that will still be in place subsequently. The big point, though, is that not enough Thais will voice their discontent to shift the militarists from their entrenched seat of power.

 

Things will get nasty for brave protesters later in the year - but I fear nothing substantial will change. It is clearly going to take a hell of a lot (I cannot imagine what) to rile the Thai people sufficiently to make them say 'enough is enough'.

 

A few thousands on the streets will not cut it. What are a few thousand in a country of nearly 70 million and pitted against the military might and their predilection for coups and control?!

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3 hours ago, Eligius said:

I am sure that Prayut will be manpulated back into office (which he has never left, of course). However, I think this year will see some opposition to the inevitable militarist government that will still be in place subsequently. The big point, though, is that not enough Thais will voice their discontent to shift the militarists from their entrenched seat of power.

 

Things will get nasty for brave protesters later in the year - but I fear nothing substantial will change. It is clearly going to take a hell of a lot (I cannot imagine what) to rile the Thai people sufficiently to make them say 'enough is enough'.

 

A few thousands on the streets will not cut it. What are a few thousand in a country of nearly 70 million and pitted against the military might and their predilection for coups and control?!

The Party thats in power at the moment was in the Wifes family area , They where giving 500 baht to people who vote for them , says it all really.

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Take the army out of the equation - full stop. But then I come from the UK, the army has always been a necessary evil for us, our trust has always been in the Navy. Hard to oppress the people with a Navy.

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44 minutes ago, nausea said:

Take the army out of the equation - full stop. But then I come from the UK, the army has always been a necessary evil for us, our trust has always been in the Navy. Hard to oppress the people with a Navy.

As Winston Churchill remarked, "the Royal Navy's traditions are rum, sodomy and the lash"

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