Thailand’s generals plan to remain in charge, whatever voters say

Mar 14, 2019

“WE WILL TAKE good care of the price of rice in the market,” declares Uttama Savanayana, the leader of the Palang Pracharat party, to a sweating crowd of farmers in Thailand’s north-east. The party, which supports the ruling military regime and is staffed by several of its former ministers, such as Mr Uttama, was founded last year. It will carry the flag for the junta in a national election on March 24th. The generals, having supposedly put an end to the instability they cited to justify taking power five years ago, are now purporting to return power to the people. It is ironic that the chief failing of the government the generals ousted, according to the courts, was to cause losses to the state by intervening in the rice market. But this seems lost on Mr Uttama. Then again, his party also does not seem to see the irony in naming as its candidate to lead a restored democratic government the man who overthrew the previous one, Prayuth Chan-ocha, the junta’s leader and the current prime minister.

The election is the first since 2011 (a partially boycotted one in 2014 was invalidated) and many Thais are delighted at the chance to vote. Roughly 7m are eligible to do so for the first time. Turnout may be as high as 80%. Dozens of parties and thousands of candidates are running. They fall roughly into three camps: those who support the...

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