Thai Opposition Warns of Dictatorship in Thailand
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Thai Opposition Warns of Dictatorship in Thailand

By Denis D. Gray/AP Writer/Bangkok Saturday, February 5, 2005


In last-minute pleas to voters, Thailand’s enfeebled opposition warned that the country will slide back into the era of dictators if Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra scores a widely anticipated landslide victory in Sunday’s general election.


“The country will be in peril if voters give overwhelming power to one man without leaving any channels to scrutinize him,” the leader of the opposition Democrat Party, Banyat Bantadtan, told a rally as the election campaign wound down Friday night.


Thaksin, who has become the country’s first elected prime minister to complete a four-year term, looks set to attain another historic landmark, with his Thai Rak Thai party expected to be the first to win a majority of parliamentary seats in a free election.


“It’s the government of one man and one dictator”
— Banyat Bantadtan, the leader of the opposition Democrat Party


An ebullient Thaksin, addressing tens of thousands of supporters in downtown Bangkok, dismissed fears that such a victory would endanger the country’s hard-won democracy.


“Where in the world is a single-party government called a dictatorship? What’s wrong with it when people have faith in me?” he said.


Twenty political parties have put up 2,289 candidates for the polls, but only four or five parties are expected to win seats in the 500-member House of Representatives.


The Thai Rak Thai, or Thai Love Thai, party, which won 248 seats in its 2001 election debut, is aiming to capture more than 350 this time around. So confident is Thaksin of a landslide, that he indicated Friday that he would drop his top coalition partner, the Chart Thai Party, from the next government.


The Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest, and other opposition groups allege that Thaksin’s main aim in seeking so many seats is to amend the 1997 reformist constitution.


The amendments, which require assent by at least half the 700 members of the House and Senate, would allow Thaksin to amass more power and wipe out democratic gains of recent decades through bloody uprisings against authoritarian regimes, they warn.


“It’s the government of one man and one dictator,” Banyat told the political rally.


With Thaksin showing approval ratings of as high as 80 percent, the Democrat Party is seemingly resigned to defeat and is simply urging voters to give it enough seats in the house, 201, to rein in the government’s excesses by calling no-confidence motions.

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