Thaksin’s ‘last war’ is warming up in the Northeast

Thaksin's 'last war' is warming up in the Northeast - Bangkok Post, October 18, 2010
...One Bhumjaithai poster screams out the party's amnesty plan to restore reconciliation while calling for everyone to unite and protect the monarchy. Another poster which features a portrait of one of the party's potential candidates calls for collective resistance against the so-called "New Thai State", a proposed new political order initiated by some extreme ideologues of the red shirt movement.
On the Pheu Thai side, several huge posters showcase its potential candidates and policy platform. For instance, the one seen in Nakhon Ratchasima announces the party's plan to solve the debt problem of the grass roots people...


[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from just a few years ago, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

Thaksin's 'last war' is warming up in the Northeast

With the bell yet to be rung, the two fired-up boxers are seething to get at each other and beat each other to a pulp in the fight of a lifetime which promises to be fierce and bloodthirsty.

That is how it looks now on the political front - spoiling for a fight with intense mutual animosity roiling through the camps of the Puea Thai and Bhumjaithai parties. In the Northeast, the main boxing ring for the two arch-rivals, a semblance of election fight fever can now be felt with huge campaign posters and billboards showcasing their potential candidates and policies springing up.

One Bhumjaithai poster screams out the party's amnesty plan to restore reconciliaton while calling for everyone to unite and protect the monarchy. Another poster which features a portrait of one of the party's potential candidates calls for collective resistance against the so-called "New Thai State", a proposed new political order initiated by some extreme ideologues of the red shirt movement.

On the Puea Thai side, several huge posters showcase its potential candidates and policy platform. For instance, the one seen in Nakhon Ratchasima announces the party's plan to solve the debt problem of the grass roots people.

Even if it is not known when exactly a general election will be staged, it appears that both the Puea Thai and Bhumjaithai parties do not want to waste any time waiting for the referee to yell "Fight!".

Many observers predict the election will likely be held early in the new year. Thammasat University rector Surapol Nitikraipote says January would be the right time. The election, he said, is the only viable solution to Thailand's protracted political conflict.

Expect election war drums to sound in earnest, initially in the northeastern battleground, once parliament goes into recess - tentatively scheduled for Nov 28. And the party which will hit the throttle hardest and quickest will be Puea Thai.

Billed as Thaksin's "last war", the election portends to be extremely fierce - if not outright violent - particularly in the northeastern region where a total of 135 House seats, the largest proportion of all the regions, will be contested. The party which wins the most seats in this region plus additional seats from other regions will surely emerge as the winner and legitimately claim the first right to form the next government.

Puea Thai has set its sights on forming a single-party government and aims to grab all 135 seats in the Northeast except for three in Buri Ram province, the solidly loyal home of Newin Chidchob, the de facto leader of Bhumjaithai.

With such ambitions and the high political stakes involved, the party's election campaign will be engineered by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra - via his proxies, of course. Since he cannot physically be here to lead the charge, it is expected he will move to somewhere closer to Thailand to supervise the election campaign.

Winning the election is seen as the only viable option for Thaksin to ever have a chance to return home, to clear himself of the two-year imprisonment verdict and all the pending cases against him and, ultimately, to pave the way for his political comeback. An amnesty plan, not only for Thaksin but for all, including red shirt and yellow shirt protesters, is likely to be the first piece of law tabled in parliament should the party win the election and manage to form a one-party government.

Since winning in the Northeast is extremely crucial to achieving its ultimate goal, the Puea Thai Party has found it necessary to undercut Bhumjaithai and stage a pre-emptive strike. Hence, the planned launch of an election campaign immediately the parliament goes into recess next month.

Gen Panlop Pinmanee, former deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command, and Pol Lt-Gen Chat Kuladilok, a deputy party leader, have been tasked with leading a group of retired police and army generals to campaign in Buri Ram reportedly to tie down Newin in his home province so he will have to worry about his own backyard, thus neutralising his efforts to help Bhumjaithai members in other constituencies.Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the party's chief adviser, will also help out in the Northeast with special focus on Nakhon Phanom and Ubon Ratchathani - strongholds of Bhumjaithai and the Democrats respectively.

Of course, Thaksin will play the key role. As it is believed by the party that Thaksin's name is still marketable among the northeastern electorate, his portrait will be side by side with those of the party's candidates in all Puea Thai posters, billboards, leaflets and other campaign materials.

Three new populist policies have already been devised to add to the party's policy platform during the campaign. They are a 300 baht minimum wage, 15,000 baht per kwien (1,5 tonnes) of paddy and 15,000 baht basic salary for employees with a BA degree.

The three policies are smart and bound to hit home. They aim to solicit support and, hopefully, votes from three large groups of people - manual workers, college graduates who number in the tens of thousands each year and millions of rice farmers.

Just imagine how many people in the Northeast who are farmers and manual workers who sell their labour in the cities will be attracted by these promises from Puea Thai. Whether such promises will be realised or not is another question. The trick is to get their votes first.

As the Puea Thai and Bhumjaithai parties are busily gearing up for the election battle in the Northeast, the Democrats have been strangly muted. They have not erected a single poster or billboard in the region.

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