Prayut Chan-O-Cha's party warns of ‘conflict’ if voters pick Opposition

Incumbent Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha campaigns for re-election in Phuket, Thailand on Sunday, May 7, 2023. - Reuters

BANGKOK, May 7 (Bloomberg): Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s conservative political party warned voters against throwing the country into a "black hole of conflict” by supporting Opposition groups that are proposing sweeping societal changes, as a power struggle intensifies ahead of next week’s general election.

A video by the United Thai Nation party on Sunday asked voters if they "really wanted Thailand to not be the same,” taking a swipe at campaigns for change by leading Opposition parties Move Forward and Pheu Thai. Move Forward’s campaign slogan in this election promised "Thailand won’t be the same.”

The Opposition groups are seeking to end nearly a decade of Prayuth’s military-backed rule after he came to power in a 2014 coup, and are projected in surveys to win a majority. More than two million Thais had registered for early voting, which took place Sunday.

"The decision of the people on May 14 will decide whether Thailand will move forward with stability and unity as it has done in the past eight years, or will be dragged backward into a black hole of conflict and mutiny,” United Thai Nation said in a video caption.

"Those who think differently will uproot the culture, traditions, and good values of society. Thailand won’t be the same anymore.”

Different scenarios in the video portrayed progressive changes as unwelcome and intimidating to Thai society.

In one scene, an old lady learned from her grandson that Thailand was being invaded because there were no soldiers after military conscription had been canceled. Both Pheu Thai and Move Forward are proposing to end mandatory military conscription if voted to power.

Opposition parties have dominated pre-election surveys. Pita Limjaroenrat of Move Forward Party, which is particularly popular among the liberal-minded youths, has climbed in recent weeks to emerge as voters’ most preferred prime minister choice in many polls.

Pheu Thai, linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, is projected in surveys to win the most seats in the election for the 500-member House of Representatives.

Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who is challenging Prayut as one of Pheu Thai’s three prime ministerial candidates, has said the party will not form a coalition government with military-backed groups. - Bloomberg

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