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Thailand's Thaksin Supporters Accuse Opponents Employing 'Dirty Tricks'

Supporters of ousted Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra accuse the opposition of using dirty tricks to bar them from forming a new government, following their victory in last month's general elections. The elections were supposed to return the kingdom to democratic rule following a military coup the year before. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

Thailand's elections in December were essentially a contest between those who want to bring back the ousted and exiled former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra and those - including the military, who want to keep Mr. Thaksin out of Thai politics out for good.

Mr. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party was disbanded after the September 2006 coup that drove him from office, but his supporters re-grouped under the new People Power Party. The PPP last month came slightly short of winning a majority of seats in parliament, meaning it has to form a coalition if it hopes to govern.

Last week, the party said it had reached an agreement with two smaller parties to form a coalition. But that effort appeared to be thwarted when the authorities put 65 of the PPP's candidates under investigation for alleged election fraud.

The Election Commission rejects allegations that it is discriminating against supporters of Mr. Thaksin, who is currently abroad.

PPP officials say the investigation amounts to a dirty trick by Thaksin opponents. PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang says the party is launching a media campaign to stop the anti-Thaksin camp's efforts to erode his party's victory.

"We have to come out on the air and inform the public that there is a hand like that trying to get involved in Thai politics now. We would like to make it clear that we cannot accept that kind of dirty tactics any more," said Kuthep.

Three PPP candidates have already been disqualified. Mr. Kuthep says party leaders are confident that the others will be able to prove they did nothing wrong and will be allowed to take their seats in parliament. He urged the opposition not to interfere.

"The game is over now. We had elections and people have given us the mandate. So, the scenario of dirty tactics should be ended," he added.

The PPP is coming up against a January 23 deadline to form a government. Analysts say there are concerns that the impasse could lead to clashes between Thaksin supporters and those who are determined to keep him out of Thai politics forever.