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Sunday April 2, 2006

Dreaded day dawns – despite lies and dark forces


YES, today’s the day that Thais go to the polls, which has become a referendum of sorts for Thaksin Shinawatra.

That the snap election is proceeding at all is a setback for the anti-Thaksin group, who wanted so much to have it called off.

They see the election as just a tool the billionaire PM is using to claim his legitimacy. With the three major opposition parties boycotting the snap poll, it has been a quiet election campaign (discounting the noise from the daily rallies).

On the streets, you would see mostly just Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party posters.

Critics believe it will be the dirtiest election ever. But then again, that was also what the opposition said of last year’s general election.

At times like this, soopsip (gossip) and lies spread fast and furious.

Even Sayant Phakdeephol, the father of a guy bashed to death for desecrating a holy shrine in Bangkok, had to defend his dead son from the untruths inadvertently made against him by Sondhi Limthongkul, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the prime mover of the anti-Thaksin rallies.

Sondhi had claimed that the man was hired to destroy the shrine so that it would be replaced with one containing a “dark force” that was aligned to Thaksin.

“Sondhi is the biggest liar I have ever known,” Sayant said, explaining that it was his son’s depression that drove him to commit the sacrilegious act.

Two days after the shrine tragedy, a “spirit house” was erected at the TRT party office in a ceremony attended by Thaksin’s wife Pojaman Shinawatra.

Gossipmongers were at work immediately, claiming that Pojaman was seen placing a gold package, supposedly taken from the desecrated shrine, inside the new spirit house.

Deception was at play, too. On Thursday, 3,000 Thaksin supporters staked out at the Nation Multimedia Group, demanding to know the truth about Sondhi’s supposed comments about the King, which was printed in Kom Chad Luek, a Thai daily under the Nation Group stable.

They accused the newspaper of being disrespectful to the monarch. However, it was obvious that their siege of the publishing house was not so much for the love of the King but more an attempt to nail Sondhi.

Last Sunday’s mammoth rally was billed by the PAD as the biggest push to oust Thaksin and promised that it would be the last demonstration.

As it turned out, their enemy is still standing. And the PAD was still organising protests in the past week.

Worse, it shifted its rally site from Government House to a busy commercial district.

Didn’t they pledge to camp outside Government House until Thaksin surrenders?

Lest it be forgotten, the Thai business community, being pragmatic, has not backed the anti-Thaksin voices.

The protest at the commercial district forced three swanky shopping complexes to close for two days.

When the Emporium shopping complex put up barricades to prevent demonstrators from using its toilets during a protest march on March 26, the rally leaders got upset and asked protesters to boycott the upmarket shopping centre.

That the PAD is flirting with the people’s emotions is a sign of desperation by the group, who saw no triumph in its numerous deadlines for Thaksin to quit.

Four days ago, a vocal critic of Thaksin walked into the office, conceding that the man has won the battle.

“It’s over, it’s all over,” he said.

The going has been tough for Thaksin, but tougher for the PAD.

Following the boycott by the three political parties, it remains to be seen whether today’s election will produce 500 MPs as required under the law for the House of Representatives to convene.

More than half of the seats have just one candidate, who must win at least 20% of the votes in his constituency. Otherwise, a by-election is required to get a clear winner.

So, it appears there is still a long road ahead after the snap election. The going is the toughest for ordinary Thais.

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