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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.”

“Bangkok-dangerous”

18 of May 2010

Put an end to this rebellion
Published: 16/05/2010 at 12:00 AM
by www.bangkokpost.com

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I’m not in a popularity contest. I’m not a two-faced diplomat playing it safe and trying to please everyone. So let me say it loud and clear: It’s a rebellion, so put an end to it _ with swiftness, severity and certainty.

The military coup in 2006 wrongly overthrew the then democratically elected prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. That was no democracy.

The coup council handed the power back to the people in 2007. The People Power Party (PPP) won the following election. That was democracy.

The PPP was banned by the Constitution Court for electoral irregularities and the parliament _ the democratically elected representatives of Thailand _ voted the Democrats into power. That was democracy.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) argue against the Democrat-led coalition government’s legitimacy and protest for the government to step down and call a general election.

That was democracy.

And the UDD had won.

The goals of the UDD from the very start: They wanted a House dissolution. They will have one in September. They wanted a general election. They will have one on Nov 14. All within seven months and PM Abhisit Vejjajiva’s term actually ends in January 2012, a year and a half from now.

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They should be dancing in the streets, celebrating victory. Then we can all go to the voting booth in November. Peace and democracy. But no.

The truth has revealed itself. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship is simply using democracy as a front in the interests of dictatorship.

Refusing the peaceful compromise, forsaking the democratic process, continuing to harm the country for the interests of one man, Thaksin Shinawatra, fighting against security forces of the rightful democratic government of Thailand _ that’s an uprising, it’s a rebellion.

It’s criminal. That is not democracy.

If you disagree with me and think the UDD is in the right, then let me simplify it: The next time you’re pulled over by the law in a traffic stop, you should just burn tyres, shoot slingshots at the cop and call him a dictator.

Anyone with an arrest warrant? No need to surrender. Barricade and fortify your home, fire slingshots and fire-crackers and call the law tyrannical.

Buy a lifetime membership to the Association of Anarchists. You don’t belong in a civilisation.

The UDD leaders agreed to the prime minister’s terms. But instead, Thaksin Shinawatra ordered Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol to step on the brake. Because in his mind, he’s screaming: ”What about me!” ”What do I get out of this entire peace and democracy shenanigans!”

Here’s Thaksin’s dilemma. Peace and the democratic process don’t guarantee his return to power. Someone in Montenegro is kicking and screaming on the floor: ”Me! Me! Me! What about me!”

Accepting the compromise is a loss of face and may even make PM Abhisit look good in the eyes of the people, for biting the bullet and extending his hand. Thaksin Shinawatra can no longer rely on the voting booths. He can no longer rely on the democratic process.

The UDD has used democracy as a tool _ manipulated and exploited it to return Thaksin to power. Now that they are no longer confident that the democratic process will serve their interests, the UDD has transformed itself from a democratic movement into an uprising, a rebellion, a criminal organisation.

It’s worth repeating: They wanted a House dissolution. They have one in September. They wanted a general election. They have one on Nov 14. That’s democracy. Instead, they flushed democracy down the toilet.

So there’s no negotiation other than the complete and total capitulation by the government to the UDD’s every will and every whim. It’s a total victory that will embarrass the government in the eyes of the Kingdom and of the world and may possibly bury the Democrat party. That’s the game.

To Thaksin and the UDD, returning Thaksin to power is worth the 50-odd lives already lost. And that figure is bound to rise. More than 1,000 have been injured and that figure will rise. The billions of baht in economic damage. And that figure will rise.

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It’s an uprising. It’s a rebellion. It’s criminal.

The UDD is screaming: ”Now! Now! Now! Prime Minister resign now!” Thaksin Shinawatra is crying: ”Me! Me! Me! I want my power back!” That’s not democracy. That’s a child that needs to be put across the lap for a good spanking.

Let me repeat it again: They wanted democracy. They had democracy. We can all go to the voting booth on Nov 14. But they flushed democracy down the toilet and chose instead, a rebellion.

And when there’s a rebellion, the government must put down the rebellion. Otherwise, we have anarchy. The law must be swift, severe and certain _ any student of criminology can tell you that.

I’ve watched television and read newspapers all this weekend. Most so-called intellectuals, academics and media talk about reconciliation. Well, that’s easy and safe _ using a thousand flowery words without saying anything worthwhile.

We reap what we sow. Again, I’m not in a popularity contest. I’m not a two-faced diplomat playing it safe and trying to please everyone. So let me say it loud and clear _ it’s a rebellion. To preserve civilisation, the government must put down the rebellion _ swift, severe and certain.

UDD members have lost their lives. This is unfortunate. It should never have happened. They should all be in our prayers and their families should be assisted in any way possible. But they’ve died in a rebellion against the rightful, democratic government of Thailand.

The security forces that have lost their lives. This is unfortunate. It should never have happened. They should all be in our prayers and their families should be assisted in any way possible.

Journalists and other innocent bystanders have lost their lives. This is unfortunate. It should never have happened. They should all be in our prayers and their families should be assisted in any way possible.

It didn’t have to come to this. It shouldn’t have come to this. But here we are on the brink of anarchy because of the pride, greed and vengefulness of one man, and of the indecisiveness, uncertainty and lack of leadership of another.

Let me repeat: We reap what we sow. It’s a rebellion. Put an end to it, swift, severe and certain. Or step down and let the rebels take over. The longer this crisis drags on, the closer we are and the deeper we will be in a state of anarchy.

voranaiv@bangkokpost.co.th
Writer: Voranai Vanijaka