Main Thai opposition party divided over running in election

BANGKOK Tue Dec 17, 2013 4:35am EST

1 of 6. Thai national flags flutter as an anti-government protester stands near Government House in Bangkok December 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's main opposition Democrat Party reappointed former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva as its leader on Tuesday but members could not agree on whether to run in an early election or stick with street protesters who want to reform the political system.

The protesters, backed by the Thai elite and Bangkok's middle class, want to force through political reforms before the snap election called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Their aim is to eradicate the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother and the power behind her government.

Democrat lawmakers resigned from parliament this month to join the street protests led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a deputy prime minister under Abhisit until 2011.

Some agree with his call for reforms to be implemented before another election can be held. But others believe their party, Thailand's oldest, should respect the democratic process and take part in the election, called for February 2.

"There will be no conclusion today as to whether the Democrat Party will run," Abhisit told reporters as the two-day meeting was drawing to an end. "We are tired enough from meeting today on other matters."

The Democrats must decide by December 27 if they want to register for the vote.

"Abhisit's dilemma is he could be in big trouble with the protesters if he does go ahead with elections as most protesters are from his constituency," said political analyst Kan Yuenyong at the Siam Intelligence Unit think-tank.

"Abhisit is in a tough position because his inclination would be to boycott no matter what, as his party is bound to lose the election. Others in his party want to restructure the Democrats and feel duty-bound to run on February 2," Kan said.

"There is a power struggle going on and Abhisit, who has been the party's poster boy for so long, is trying to exert control over a fractured Democrat Party."

Thaksin is a former prime minister who was ousted by the military in 2006 after a series of election victories won with the support of the urban and rural poor, whose living standards he raised through cheap healthcare and other policies.

The Puea Thai Party of Yingluck Shinawatra, who is caretaker prime minister until the election, is well placed to win again because of Thaksin's bedrock of support in the populous, rural north and northeast.

She won a landslide victory in 2011. Both that campaign and her subsequent administration have been heavily influenced by Thaksin even though he chooses to live in exile in Dubai because he faces a jail sentence for abuse of power handed down in 2008. He maintains his trial was politically motivated.

ARMY STAYS NEUTRAL

Suthep's program remains vague and it is unclear how long it would take his proposed "people's council" to implement any reforms.

He wants to wipe out vote-buying and electoral fraud and has also promised "forceful laws to eradicate corruption", decentralization, the end of "superficial populist policies that enable corruption" and the reform of "certain state agencies such as the police force".

Suthep's protest gained impetus in early November after Yingluck's government tried to push through a political amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return home a free man.

The politically powerful military has rebuffed Suthep's call for it to intervene on his side and has offered to help hold a "fair and clean" election next year.

The military has staged or attempted 18 coups over the past 80 years, intervening in politics in support of the establishment, which includes royalists and old-money families that have backed the protests.

Military sources say Suthep is backed by two powerful retired generals, a former defense minister, General Prawit Wongsuwan, and former army chief General Anupong Paochinda. Both have a history of enmity with Thaksin and remain influential in the military establishment.

As deputy premier under Abhisit, Suthep authorized a military crackdown to end weeks of anti-government protests by Thaksin's supporters in central Bangkok in 2010. Scores of protesters died and both Abhisit and Suthep have been charged with murder in connection with the crackdown.

(Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Comments (4)
pakpanang wrote:
There are many reasons why we have to protest and ask that Yingluk and her cabinet resign from being care taking government. Yingluk’ cabinet runs the country under Taksin’ commands and controls. Taksin is a fugitive in exile. He is corrupted. He is a dictator. He spent a fortune of his money to buy off many MP’s. Herefuses the authority of court of justice and Constitution court. He is a cause of all the political turmoil that we are now facing.
The list of destructive and unlawful acts of Yingluk’s government and the MP’s. on the government are as follows: The rice scheme is corrupted and has lost more than 40 billions baht. The flood management scheme is corrupted and not accepted by the people in many communities. They attempted to issue amnesty decree that encompasses all corrupted politicians, terrorists, arsonists, thieves, and murderers. The process of issuing this particular decree violated the constitution of Thailand. They tried to amend the constitution that would destroy the balance and control measures of democracy. The Constitutional Court has a verdict that what they did violated the constitution both in term of content and process, but they refused the verdict, which makes them become rebellion. As Taksin has bought off a majority of MP’s, he can practice dictatorship through MP’ s voting behavior. Taksin’ puppet government is big enough to take everything he wants from the country. It can be corrupted, and the opposition party can not exercise any democratic mechanism to stop this tyrant situation. Thai people who want to uphold justice, democracy, and the constitution can no longer tolerate this phenomenon, and they are willing to join the protest led by Khun Sutep. There have been quite a few millions of people who joined the rallies on the 24th of November and the 9th of December. Yingluk decided to dissolve the House of Representatives, and announced that there would be an election on the 2nd of Feb., hoping that the protest would be dissolved and all the protesters would terminate their protesting activities. But that is not the case, because the House of Representatives being dissolved is not the ultimate goal of the protest. What the protesters want is to reform the political process and procedure to achieve a genuine democracy–a democracy by the people and for the people. The protesters demand that the reform take place before we hold another election. Without an intensive political reform prior to another election, Thailand will be back into the same situation as we are now. We are not opposing an election, but we want an intensive political reform before an election. This demand is possible, if Yingluk and her cabinet resign from being care taking government. The Constitution has Article 3 and Article 7 that prescribe a procedure that Thailand can have constitutional interim government and people assembly to reform Thailand’s politics, so that we can have a fair and transparent election. What we are doing now is to release Thailand from Taksin’s tyrant regime–the regime that is corrupted and in no way democratic in any sense

Dec 17, 2013 8:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
pakpanang wrote:
There are many reasons why we have to protest and ask that Yingluck and her cabinet resign from being care taking government. Yingluck’cabinet runs the country under Taksin’commands and controls. Taksin is a fugtive in exile. He is corrupted. He is a dictator. He spent a fortune of his money to buy off many MP’s Herefuses the authority of court of justice and Constitution court. He is a cause of all the political turmoil that we are now facing. The list of destructive and unlawful acts of Yingluck’s government and the MP’s. on the government are as follows: The rice scheme is corrupted and has lost more than 40 billions baht. The flood management scheme is corrupted and not accepted by the people in many communities. They attempted to issue amnesty decree that encompasses all corrupted politicians, terrorists, arsonists, , thieves,and murderers. The process of issuing this particular decree violated the constitutions of Thailand. They tried to amend the constitution that would destroy the balance and control measures of democracy. The Constitutional Court has a verdict that what they did violated the constitution both in term of content and process, but they refused the verdict, which makes them become rebellion. As Taksin has bought off a majority of MP’s he can practice dictatorship through MP’s voting behavior.

Dec 17, 2013 9:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
pakpanang wrote:
Reforms must be achieved before elections!’
We are not rejecting elections. We simply want to make sure elections are fair.
Failed politics and rigged elections can never lead to reform. Reforms must be achieved before elections.

Dec 17, 2013 10:00am EST  --  Report as abuse
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