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BANGKOK: The Thai opposition Puea Thai party, backed by the exiled politician Thaksin Shinawatra, has won a large majority in a landslide election result.

The Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, conceded defeat late last night, saying Puea Thai will be able to form government.

The political novice Yingluck Shinawatra, 44, a younger sister of Mr Thaksin who was put forward to lead the opposition party, thanked voters while claiming victory after Mr Abhisit’s concession.

Speaking in a nervous voice, Ms Yingluck invited minor parties to join her in forming a government and promised to fulfil promises made during the election campaign.

The election is the first since a bloody crackdown against opposition activists in May last year killed 91 people.

One poll, by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, had the opposition winning 313 of 500 seats, while the Democrat party of Mr Abhisit would win 152 seats. A government exit poll had Puea Thai winning 280 seats, enough to form government.

Before the election, Red Shirt supporters, many of whom had occupied central Bangkok in April and May last year until they were violently expelled by the army, were confident that Ms Yingluck would become Thailand’s first female prime minister after Puea Thai vaulted ahead in polling.

The businesswoman is a younger sister of Mr Thaksin, a deeply divisive figure at the centre of the election who is living in self-imposed exile in Dubai.

Speaking from Dubai last night, he said the exit polls were indicating a victory margin bigger than he had expected.

Mr Thaksin, 61, is a telecoms tycoon who has been sentenced to two years’ jail for corruption.

He is expected to be pardoned in an amnesty and return to Thailand to take a central behind-the-scenes role for Puea Thai, which has strong support among the rural and urban poor. Mr Abhisit’s Democrats represent the old-money government and business elite who despise Mr Thaksin, who has been behind every election victory in the past decade.

Mr Abhisit said during the campaign the election would be ”the best opportunity to remove the poison of Thaksin from Thailand”.

During her campaign Ms Yingluck often described Mr Thaksin as her ”clone” and campaigned on the slogan: ”Thaksin thinks and Puea Thai does”.

Her slick, well-funded campaign promised to focus on uniting the country after six years of political turbulence.

More than 180,000 police guarded 90,000 polling centres as 35 million voters cast their ballots to fill 500 seats in parliament.

Puea Thai (For Thais) needed 260 or 270 seats to form government in its own right as ministers do not get a vote in parliament.

There is a danger the losing side will not accept the result, plunging the country back into violent turmoil, analysts have warned. Puea Thai’s expected landslide will test the army’s willingness to let the party govern five years after Mr Thaksin was ousted.

On the eve of the election the army chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha, dismissed rumours of a coup if Puea Thai won and asserted the military would remain neutral.

”Any government coming up has the right to take office,” he said. ”I have no problem accepting whatever comes.”

There have been unconfirmed reports the Thaksin camp and the military have been discussing some kind of accommodation.

The army removed Mr Thaksin from power in a 2006 coup.

Voters queued nervously at polling centres in Bangkok after a largely peaceful campaign where the rival parties made strikingly similar policies.

The main parties made extravagant promises such as sharply lifting the minimum wage, pensions for the elderly, computers for children, subsidies for rice, debt moratoriums and cash handouts the central bank said the economy could not afford.

Adding to tensions was the health of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 83, who has been in and out of hospital for much of the past two years.

”We have lost our way and we are trying to find our way back,” Pichai Chuensuksawadi, editor-in-chief of The Bangkok Post, told The New York Times. ”Whoever comes in now must play a key role in keeping things calm.”

Pad Thai, otherwise known as Thai fried noodles. The ingredients that make up this dish include: egg, beansprouts, dried shrimp, garlic, tofu, salted Chinese radish and crushed peanuts.

You can find pad thai being made almost anywhere. However, be warned. The recipe does vary. Try to avoid the pad thai that has been “mass produced” and is seen for sale for only 10 baht at temple fairs and places like Khao San Road. For best results, watch it being made fresh. The pad thai stand around the corner from me opens at about 5 p.m. and is open until late. A large plate from her costs 20 baht (see picture above). An extra sized helping (called pi-set in Thai) costs only 5 baht more.

First to be added to the wok are the noodles. These are stir-fried for a few minutes. Next is added the dried shrimp, tofu and minced Chinese raddish. Again this is mixed and stir-fried for a few minutes.

The ingredients are now pushed to one side and an egg is cracked into the wok. She cooked the egg for a minute or so before breaking it up and mixing it in with the noodles. Finally a sprinkling of chopped chives and a generous layer of breansprouts are placed on top. This is not mixed in with the noodles. It is now ready to serve. The finally layer is the ground roasted peanuts. She placed all of this into a container with some spring onions, half a lime and a little plastic bag containing chili and sugar.

Although pad thai is cooked just about everywhere, people will cross to the other side of town just to get their favourite recipe. My favourite is on Taiban roundabout. Very delicious and worth the extra effort to cross town. It is easy to spot the more popular hawkers as there is always a long queue!

I have never attempted to cook this dish as it is so readily available. However, here is the recipe if you want to have a go at home:

Stir-Fried Thai Noodles Recipe

Ingredients:

8 oz (250 g) rice noodles (sen lek)
3 tablespoons oil
3 garlic cloves (kratiem), minced
1/4 cup dried shrimp/prawns
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) fish sauce (nam pla)
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind juice (ma-kaam piag)
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup fried tofu
2 tablespoons dried unsalted turnip, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup 1-in (2.5-cm) lengths chopped chives
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) ground roasted peanuts
1 cup bean sprouts

Garnish:

1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup chopped chives
1/4 small banana blossom, cut into strips
1/2 lime, cut into wedges

How to cook:

1. Soak the rice noodles in cold water for 30 minutes, or until soft. Drain, and set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet until hot, then add the oil. Add the garlic and dried shrimp, and stir-fry. Add the noodles and stir-fry until translucent. It may be necessary to reduce the heat if the mixture is cooking too quickly and the noodles stick.

3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, tamarind juice and paprika. Stir-fry the mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the tofu, turnip and egg.

4. Turn the heat to high and cook until the egg sets, stirring gently. Thoroughly combine the mixture, and continue cooking over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes until most of the liquid is reduced.

5. Mix in the chives, peanuts and bean sprouts. Place on a serving dish, arrange the bean sprouts, chives, banana blossom and lime attractively and serve.

Thousands of Buddhist monks took part in a ceremony in Bangkok’s shopping district on May 8, 2011. Numbering 12,600, according to organizers, the monks attended the ceremony on Vesak Day, the annual celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. The event was organised to pay homage to the Lord Buddha and to give moral support to the Buddhist monks and novices from the troubled southern provinces of Thailand. This year marks 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

In Buddhism, alms or almsgiving is the respect given by a lay Buddhist to a Buddhist monk, nun, spiritually-developed person or other sentient being. It is not charity as presumed by Western interpreters. It is closer to a symbolic connection to the spiritual and to show humbleness and respect in the presence of normal society. The visible presence of monks and nuns is a stabilizing influence. The act of alms giving assists in connecting the human to the monk or nun and what he/she represents.
12600 Monks where given respect this morning at Central World Plaza in Bangkok by thousand of Buddhists in white dresses and shirts.

After chanting and a sermon, the monks then started to file down the paths between an estimated crowd of 100,000 lay people. In normal alms giving events that I have attended, the monks would start accepting alms straight away. However, as there were 12,600 here it wasn’t possible. So, they all filed down to the end first. Once all of the monks were on the red carpet, the lay people then started offering food to the monks at the same time.

The majority of alms offered were dried food as well as personal necessities such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Like the mass alms giving in Samut Prakan, most of the donated food will be sent to 286 temples in the deep south of Thailand. Proceeds will also be used to sponsor the Robe Offering Ceremony for the entire year.

Due to the on-going troubles in the four southernmost provinces in Thailand, it is not easy for the monks living there to go out on their daily alms rounds. In fact, monks have been targeted and shot dead in the past. The event today was organized to give them both moral support as well as dried food.

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