Thai voters voices: Old conflicts and new ideas

Thai voters head to the polls on Sunday for the first general election since a military coup in 2014. Though the contest broadly pits loyalists of the ruling junta against supporters of populist parties, many voters want change.
The political turmoil in Thailand over the past decade has been defined by massive street protests led by the mostly rural and urban working class “Red Shirts” and the more urban and middle class “Yellow Shirts”.
The populist Red Shirts are supporters of the exiled ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the royalist Yellow Shirts strongly oppose Thaksin and tend to back the military.
Military coups have toppled two pro-Thaksin governments, one lead by Thaksin in 2006 and the other led by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014.
Kasem Fai-Ngam is a Red Shirt supporter who has participated in many Red Shirt protests. The 56-year-old motorcycle taxi driver said he used to be a construction worker, but had to change jobs after it became difficult to find work after Thaksin was ousted.
He said that he is hoping the election leads to a more transparent government with stronger checks and balances and a united Thailand with real democracy.
The proprietor of a small barbershop decorated with a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Wanlop Shanchan said he is a staunch supporter of the Thai monarchy and intends to support the incumbent prime minister and former army chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha in the election. “Even though Prayuth seized power, he’s not a dictator, he has never killed a single person.”
The pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party, led by a longtime ally of the ex-premier, is the main opposition to the Prayuth’s pro-military party, Palang Pracharat.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Palang Pracharat will have a built-in advantage under new electoral rules written by the junta.
Phupa, a first time voter, said, “I’m bored with Thai politics in the past 10 years”. He said he is looking for an alternative party because the old players will lead to the same cycle of protest and coup. — AFP