Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thailand Election 2011

Parliamentary elections on Sunday delivered a big win to Thailand’s Pheu Thai party, giving it an absolute majority in the 500-seat body and suggesting a referendum on the country’s military coup of 2006.
Leaving the former governing party with just 160 seats, the election was seen as a victory for former Prime Minister Thaskin Shinawatra, who has been living in exile in Dubai for five years. His youngest sister Yingluck Shinawatra led with canny campaigning despite little political experience, according to The New York Times.
The political upset is seen as a win for the country’s rural poor, championed by the former prime minister and now his sister, a businesswoman.
“This is a slap in the face to the establishment for what they’ve done since the military coup in 2006,” Thitinan  Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute  of Security and International Studies at  Chulalongkorn University, told the Times. “This is a new Thailand that they must learn to live with.”
Though the general who led the coup in 2006 said he would work with the new majority party — he himself won a seat in this election for a party he created — the military supported the Democrat party, which is seen as holding more support of the country’s wealthy and elite as well as military members.
Despite Sunday’s victory, residents in the country continue to worry about intimidation and rumors of yet another military coup.
"We don't dare to organize in public," former chicken farmer Saifon Jettabootr told NPR. "We are scared that the government will use the law to arrest us. That's why we gather people here, using this Buddhist temple as our refuge."
While both parties paid lip service to helping the poor, many believe the election solidifies Thitinan’s policies of encouraging the country’s rural communities towards local growth, and suggests an appetite among Thais for his return.

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