Thai PM's party launches election campaign as protests loom

BANGKOK Sat Jan 4, 2014 8:28am EST

1 of 4. A supporter of Puea Thai party carries a sign with the number 15, referring to the party's number during upcoming elections, poses for photographers during the launch of the first election campaign in Bangkok January 4, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's ruling Puea Thai kicked off its campaign on Saturday for a February election that anti-government protesters, who plan more mass rallies, are determined to sabotage as part of efforts to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Puea Thai is likely to win the February 2 election because of the populist legacy of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother and former premier, whose influence from self-imposed exile has enraged his opponents and plunged the divided country into all-too-familiar turmoil.

Thousands of Puea Thai supporters gathered in a Bangkok suburb on Saturday to celebrate the campaign launch. They are among millions in the populous north and northeast loyal to Thaksin and his family because of his pro-poor policies and a major reason why the party has won every ballot since 2001.

The prospect of Thaksin, 64, controlling another government has alarmed protesters, who plan to shut down Bangkok and scuttle the vote. They will resume rallies every other day from Sunday to re-energize supporters ahead of a campaign from January 13 to occupy undisclosed sites and dent Yingluck's credibility.

They want to force a poll delay, as well as her resignation, and install an appointed administration of "good people", a course Yingluck says is unconstitutional and cannot be allowed.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, a relative of Thaksin, urged the public to shun the rallies.

"Those who want to join the mass rally to shut down Bangkok, they need to think thoroughly because it will cause damage to the country," he said in a televised address on Saturday, adding that "strict measures" would be used. He did not elaborate.

Security officials said such measures would include the deployment of some 20,000 police and 20 companies of troops.

Thailand's Election Commission, which previously asked for the poll to be postponed, got behind the government on Friday when it declared the February 2 vote would go ahead and that its members would not resign, as it had earlier suggested.

Eight of 77 provinces have so far had registration disrupted by protesters. They are in southern Thailand, where anti-Thaksin sentiment thrives and support is strong for the pro-establishment Democrat Party, which will boycott the election.

PRECARIOUS POSITION

Political tension has gripped Thailand since November, when protests swelled in response to Puea Thai's push for an amnesty bill that would have expunged Thaksin's 2008 graft conviction.

That put an abrupt end to two years of relative calm. Yingluck's government is now in a precarious position and even an election win may not guarantee its survival.

Two previous Puea Thai governments were targeted not only by protests but judicial and military intervention - direct and indirect - which its supporters blamed on a tight-knit network of royalists, generals and conservatives who see Thaksin as an arrogant opportunist who entrenched graft and nepotism.

Peaceful rallies of as many as 200,000 have taken place in the past month, as have sporadic clashes during which several people were killed by unidentified gunmen. The government fears unrest could escalate and lead to the military dictating Thailand's immediate political future instead of an election.

The coup-prone military says it does not want that. However,

asked whether intervention was possible, top general Prayuth Chan-ocha said last week: "The door is neither open nor closed."

Puea Thai also faces the looming threat of complex legal cases against it that could leave Thailand in limbo. An anti-graft agency and the top court will rule whether to accept cases that implicate 381 former lawmakers, mostly Puea Thai members, accused of backing unlawful legislation.

(Additional reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Sinthana Kosolpradit; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Comments (3)
dmitry0 wrote:
Suthep Thaugsuban and his supporters have threatened to shutdown Bangkok on January 13. This action is a grave attempt to violently overthrow the democratically elected government of Thailand. Also, these thugs want the military to stage a coup ousting Yingluck Shinawatra.

To understand the barbarism of Thaugsuban and his supporters, consider the political system in Japan, the only Western democracy in Asia. For decades in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and its political allies received the majority of the votes and dominated the parliament. The opposition parties respected the wishes of the voters and did not attempt to violently overthrow the government.

Moreover, criticism of the emperor and the rest of the imperial family is legal. Such is the nature of a Western democracy.

By contrast, in Thailand, the major opposition party is the Democrat Party and does not respect the wishes of the voters, of whom the majority has supported the Pheu Thai Party (PTP) and its allies. Thaugsuban, a member of the Democrat Party, is leading protestors to violently overthrow the government run by the PTP.

Furthermore, criticism of the king and rest of the royal family is illegal. The king enthusiastically supports imprisoning his critics.

If you are a student in a Thai university, then you understand that the Democrat Party, the royal family, and the royalist soldiers in the army are destroying any hope for Thailand to become a wealthy Western democracy like Japan. You also understand that in the newly Westernized nations of Eastern Europe, its university students were the strongest opponents of authoritarian governments during the era of Soviet domination. These students risked their lives to oppose politicians like Thaugsuban.

You, the student in a Thai university, cannot sit idly while politicians like Suthep Thaugsuban destroy Thailand. You must kill Thaugsuban and the entire royal family. Little time remains until the military stages a coup. You must act now.

reporter, USA, http://theclearsky.blogspot.com/

Jan 04, 2014 8:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
khampee wrote:
all the demo leaders have warents for there arrest and ,seem to think they are above the law,which is a pointer as to what they want ,the rich mans party chose not to join the election,after losing the last six ,they have nothing new to offer electing the same six time loser as leader shows ,how out of touch they are ,living in a 1950 dream world, where the rich could do what they wanted,paying for degrees ,stopping legal charges by paying the police ,using there money to be above the law,

Jan 04, 2014 10:45pm EST  --  Report as abuse
khampee wrote:
he has failed to get the army to take his side ,and that is the only way they can get a sort term win,even if there is a coup and they army choose there side ,the people will not stand bye and let them carry out there plot.all they will get are more dead Thai people ,and they will still go to prison our get the death penalty, for treason,last time they got away with it,not this time,while they shut Bangkok down the rest of real Thailand carrys on as normal

Jan 04, 2014 10:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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