KHON KAEN/SONGKHLA, Thailand (Reuters) – In the rice-growing heartland of Thailand’s northeast, Kamol Suanpanya, 80, meets in the off season with fellow farmers at a community center, where they discuss Sunday’s election, the first after nearly five years of military rule.
Like most in the area, Kamol will vote for Thailand’s largest party, Pheu Thai, whose government was overthrown in 2014. He is loyal because of policies like subsidies and low-cost health care pioneered by ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Pheu - Thai - Kamol - Mind
“I can tell you I will vote for Pheu Thai again,” said Kamol. “I haven’t changed my mind and I never will.”
Some 1,400 km (870 miles) to the south, a longtime stronghold of the anti-Thaksin Democrat party, rubber farmer Gorneena Pae-arlee isn’t so sure about her vote.
Democrats - Leader - Prayuth - Chan-ocha - Minister
She has voted for the Democrats in the past, but says she will not do so again. Nor does she want junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain prime minister, as the new pro-military Palang Pracharat party is campaigning for.
“I want to vote for change,” said Gorneena, 52, who owns a big rubber plantation in Songkhla province.
Sunday - Election - Struggle - Democracy - Rule
Sunday’s general election has been cast as a struggle between democracy and military rule, with Thaksin’s Pheu Thai leading the charge for a “democratic front” against Palang Pracharat, the party backing Prayuth.
The pro-establishment Democrats are seen as a possible kingmaker.
Farmers - Times - Mountains - Debt
But from north to south, farmers complain about hard times and growing mountains of debt since the military took over.
Many look to the election as a way out for what they say is an economy that seems to be growing but leaving them behind.
Thailand - World - Exporter - Rubber - Second-largest
Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rubber and second-largest of rice. Farming accounts for 30 percent of the work force, though only about 10 percent of the economy.
The rice-growing northeast and rubber-tapping south reflect the deep divide in Thailand’s...
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