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Home >> World
UPDATED: 10:38, April 20, 2006
Thais elect Senate amid violence, calls for reform
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Thailand's Senate elections yesterday were marred by deadly attacks in the restive south where suspected Muslim insurgents ambushed election workers as government critics warned that the vote could inflame the country's simmering political crisis.

Two police officers and one election volunteer were killed in five separate attacks in Thailand's troubled south, where residents blame the government for mishandling the bloody insurgency that flared in 2004 and has left over 1,000 people dead.

Exit polls showed that critics of outgoing Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were leading in the south and in the capital, Bangkok, where weeks of anti-government protests prompted the premier to step down earlier this month.

"The anti-Thaksin sentiment is severely impacting candidates who are believed to be siding with the government," said Sukhum Chaleuysap, head the Suan Dusit polling agency.

In the rest of the country, where Thaksin's support remains high, Senate seats were expected to go to candidates seen to have ties to the government, Sukhum said.

Anti-Thaksin campaigners urged the country's 45 million registered voters to shun candidates with ties to the ruling party and to usher in an upper house of parliament that could act as a true check on the government's power and weed out corruption in politics.

If the 200-seat Senate, which is supposed to be neutral, is filled with Thaksin's allies it could re-ignite demands for political reforms that peaked during mass street protests last month, government opponents say.

Candidates for the 200-seat Senate, which appoints members of anti-graft agencies and can block legislation, are required by the constitution to have no political affiliation.

But many outgoing senators have been accused of accepting pay-outs from the ruling Thai Rak Thai Party and protecting officials from fraud charges.

Source: China Daily

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