Thailand opposition leader says unity needed to beat military


Bangkok (Reuters) – Thailand’s opposition bloc should stick together to dislodge the military from politics and form a government after an election in May, the leader of a popular opposition party told Reuters on the sidelines of a packed campaign rally on Saturday.

Thailand’s election, on May 14, is shaping up as a contest between pro-military conservatives and the populist opposition led by Pheu Thai Party and its ally the Move Forward Party. Two governments Pheu Thai supported were overthrown by military coups, in 2006 and 2014.

“It’s very clear that the current opposition is the right answer for the challenges being faced by Thailand, not the military-backed party that staged the coup,” Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, 42, told Reuters backstage at the rally.

Pita, whose progressive party is popular with young voters, sees the alliance with Pheu Thai as vital to beat Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha after more than eight years in office.

Former army chief Prayuth first seized power in a 2014 coup and stayed prime minister after the last election in 2019. He is contesting the upcoming election but recent opinion polls put him behind both Pheu Thai and Move Forward, who maintained first and second places.

Move Forward has a strong base among urban voters, including those who joined a youth-led protest movement that emerged in 2020 to challenged Prayuth. Pita said that support bases complimented compliment Pheu Thai, backed by the working class and farmers in the rural north and northeast.

Pita said the alliance between pro-democracy parties was needed to overcome the outsized influence of the 250-seat upper house Senate, appointed by the military government before the last election, which will vote to pick the next prime minister along with the 500-seat elected lower house after the May 14 election.

“If the lower house is packed as much as possible with (those following) democratic norms and rules, we will be able to take away the conflict of the politics of the appointed upper house versus the politics of the elected lower house,” he said.

“I am sure we will see a big change here in Thailand.” he said.

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