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The Kingdom of Thailand, so liked by overseas tourists, is seething
The Kingdom of Thailand, so liked by overseas tourists, is seething following pre-New Year parliamentary elections that defeated the military junta, which toppled the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2006.

His followers, represented by the People Power Party (PPP), have gained 233 seats out of 480 in the lower house of parliament. Their main opponent, the Democratic Party, which is supported by army generals, obtained only 165 seats.

And although Thaksin's supporters (Thaksin is in exile in the United Kingdom) have failed to muster an absolute majority, party leader Samak Sundaravej is sure he will set up a coalition government. The announcement is expected on January 4.

It remains only to wind up talks with the smaller parties which will form a coalition with the PPP. Administration in the country will change, and the former prime minister, whose frozen accounts, to believe the local press, hold $1.9 billion, will return to Thailand from Britain, where he owns the Manchester City soccer club.

Thaksin, wealthy as he is, is popular among ordinary people and the rural population. His economic policy, called Thaksinomics, produced a flexible credit system, a healthcare system available to all, and rural development funds in 2001-2006. 

At the same time, his opponents among the aristocrats and the military accuse the former prime minister of corruption and graft, although, as observers note, this is typical both of Thailand and other Asian countries as a standard way of solving problems.

Thaksin is also blamed for a ruthless approach to the Muslim south, where more than 2,500 people have died in separatist outrages in the last four years.

There are four million Muslims living in Thailand's three southern provinces, where Buddhism has been declared a state religion.

The voting results have produced a clear picture, giving the thumbs down to the military, who, despite adopting a new constitution, failed to do anything to improve the situation in the country - not even prove Thaksin's hand in corruption.

The elections have shown that the generals in power now have little support inside the country.

In May of this year, the military regime banned Thaksin's former party Thai Rak Thai. The former head of government and another 100 politicians were put out of circulation for five years. The PPP intends to lift the restrictions. Thaksin has already declared that he will consider a possible return in February, but is going to stay out of politics. That would be a wise decision, considering the lessons of the previous years.

Yet observers believe the former prime minister will manage to keep his political influence even if he remains in the shadows.

There are also gloomy scenarios. Some observers are not ruling out that the PPP can be dissolved in the same way as Thai Rak Thai, under the pretext of election irregularities.

The Thai newspaper Nation reported a few days ago that the elections commission and military authorities were already investigating 160 such cases.

Recently Thailand has adopted a law on homeland security, vesting the military with the right to take up political issues without consulting the government. There is even talk of a new military coup in the country, which has a record of 18 previous coups.

The previous military coup took place in Thailand in 1991 and few people expected the generals to dabble in politics again. But that happened 15 months ago.

And one more point: The country's veteran Democratic Party, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, although it lost the elections, returned good results. It was this party that during the 1998 Asian financial crisis ensured the proper functioning of a multi-party cabinet. This force will remain a political heavyweight despite its "stain" of military junta support.

Political passions in Thailand will keep running high for a long time, because the army generals and the Democrats are unlikely to swallow the bitter pill of parliamentary elections any time soon. Especially since their results have practically split the country in two - defenders of the ordinary people and upholders of law and order.

But the army generals and the overthrown prime minister Thaksin ought to realize that they should no longer be involved in politics but clear the way for new leaders who might hit upon right decisions and avoid further upheavals for Thailand.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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