Thai election candidates change names for more votes

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Bangkok, Feb 6 (IANS) Fifteen candidates for election to the Thai Parliament have changed their first names to those of the former Prime Ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, to make them more recognizable for the election on March 24, a political party spokesperson said on Wednesday.

All the candidates, 11 men called “Thaksin” and four women called “Yingluck”, are membes of Pheu Chart Party, one of the political parties linked to the Shinawatras, who have won in all polls since 2001.

The administrations headed by the bother and sister were removed from power by the military in separate coups, but the Shinawatras continue to exert a great influence on the country’s political life.

Pheu Chart spokeswoman Ketpreeya Kaewsanmuang told Efe news that the name changes did not comply with any strategy of the party, but were “personal decisions of the candidates, all of them from rural areas”.

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“Candidates have the right to do so, because it is not against the law. I don’t think it will benefit or harm us, but it helps voters identify the party when it comes to voting,” Kaewsanmunang said.

Six of the candidates changed their names on January 31 in Nakhon Ratchasima province, in the northeast of the country, the region where the Shinawatra group has always been more popular.

“Our party is not well-known and we do not have many funds. When we started doing our campaign, people told us that they wanted the policies of Thaksin and Yingluck. Several candidates and I got together and decided to change our names to promote the party,” the candidate Thaksin Koankoksong, formerly known as Sod Koankoksong, told Efe.

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Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister between 2001 and 2006, maintains great support among the impoverished rural population due to his social policies, but his growing power generated hostility with the Army and the traditional elite in the capital.

A military coup ousted Thaksin in 2006 and two years later he went into exile to avoid serving a jail sentence for corruption.

In 2011, his sister Yingluck won the elections leading the Pheu Thai Party, one of whose slogans during her election campaign was “Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts.”

Yingluck’s government was overthrown three years later and she followed her brother into exile in 2017, avoiding a jail term for abuse of power and negligence.

Around 6,400 people from some 60 parties have registered with the Electoral Commission to participate in the elections. Registration began on Monday and will end on Friday.

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–IANS

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