x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Thailand's military accepts Thaksin party's sweeping election win

Thai army says it will accept a government led by Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and promises the military would not stage a coup, as Yingluck promises to reconcile the divided nation as its first female prime minister.

Yingluck Shinawatra gives the traditional Thai greeting alongside her new coalition party members, the day after her Pheu Thai party won an overwhelming victory in national elections. Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
Yingluck Shinawatra gives the traditional Thai greeting alongside her new coalition party members, the day after her Pheu Thai party won an overwhelming victory in national elections. Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

BANGKOK // Thailand's military yesterday accepted the sweeping electoral win of toppled ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's party, while his sister promised to reconcile the divided nation as its first female prime minister.

The election marked an extraordinary rebuke of the military-backed establishment that deposed Mr Thaksin in a coup five years ago. The opposition's strong mandate in parliament was likely to boost stability in the short-term, a fact reflected in a sharp rise in the Thai stock market yesterday.

Mr Thaksin's overthrow in 2006 triggered years of political upheaval in the kingdom, including mass street protests launched by Mr Thaksin's supporters last year that were crushed in a bloody army crackdown.

The defence minister, General Prawit Wongsuwon said the army would accept a government led by Mr Thaksin's sister, 44-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra, and promised the military would not stage a coup.

"I've said this several times," General Prawit was quoted as saying by several Thai newspapers yesterday. "We are not going to intervene."

Ms Yingluck announced an agreement yesterday to form a five-party coalition government. Her Pheu Thai party won a majority of 265 seats in the 500-seat lower house of parliament outright, according to preliminary results of Sunday's polling; Ms Yingluck said the agreement with four minor parties would boost her coalition to 299 seats.

The accord came unusually quickly for Thai politics, where hard bargaining usually takes place over allocation of cabinet seats. The pact should strengthen Ms Yingluck's government-to-be, especially if legal challenges under electoral law force some of her party's politicians from their positions.

The army-backed incumbent prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, meanwhile, resigned as leader of the outgoing ruling party, Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks said. The Democrats won 159 seats.

"They prove without any doubt that the majority of people have rejected the military, the Democrat party and the royalist elite," Mr Giles said from Britain.

"I myself, and Pheu Thai, are determined to serve the nation," Ms Yingluck said, adding that her government would boost transparency and fight corruption.

Speaking in Dubai yesterday, Mr Thaksin hailed the electoral result.

Mr Thaksin said he would stay in Dubai for the time being "doing business," and if his sister's party needs advice, he will give it. Mr Thaksin and his proxies have won the country's last four elections. By contrast, the Democrat party, backed by big business, the military and circles around the royal palace, has not won a popular vote since 1992.

Thailand's democratic process has been repeatedly thwarted over the years, with 18 successful or attempted military coups since the 1930s.

Mr Thaksin's overthrow was followed by controversial court rulings which removed two of the pro-Thaksin prike ministers who came after, one of whom won an election in 2007 intended to restore democracy in the nation of 66 million people.

Those events took place amid anti-Thaksin "Yellow Shirt" protests in which demonstrators overran the prime minister's office and shut both of Bangkok's international airports in 2008.

When Mr Abhisit built a ruling coalition with the parties that remained in Parliament after the court rulings, pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts," composed largely of the rural poor, began protesting.

They overran a regional summit in 2009 and paralysed Bangkok's wealthiest district for two months last year. Clashes that culminated in an army crackdown killed some 90 people and wounded about 1,800, mostly protesters.

Cambodia's leader, Hun Sen, is considered a strong ally of Mr Thaksin, who was briefly an adviser to the Cambodian government.