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In Thailand's North, Support for Ruling Party Remains Strong

In northern Thailand, millions of rural voters still strongly back the party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. As anti-government protesters try to push her from office and postpone the upcoming February elections, VOA spoke with voters in Chang Mai about the country's political crisis.

In recent months, farmers here have continued to go about their daily routines, far removed from the protests roiling Bangkok.

Many back the ruling Pheu Thai party, largely because of populist policies that they say have brought government services and income to rural areas.

But farmer San Chaivut says their support is about more than just policies, it's about sending a message to protest leaders who doubt their political judgment.

“They said people in the North have no idea about law. We want the election to take place and follow a democratic system and we can show them who people in North and North East will vote for to show them that people they insulted know democracy well,” said San.

Popular political talk show radio host Mahawan Kawang says the increased political awareness at the local level has strengthened the voice of what he calls Thailand's “silent majority” - the two-thirds of the population who live in rural areas.

“In the past the people at the level of laborers were not involved in Thai politics. But now people like farmers and market vendors turn to become interested in Thai politics and rights abuses,” said Mahawan.

At Chiang Mai University's School of International Affairs, professor Kanyanattha Ittinitiwut sees few options for compromise in the political deadlock because she says it is about power, not policies.

“I think this is the fight for power, it's not democracy. It's divided because they want to be in power. Power to order, power to approve, power to give permission for the nation of Thailand,” said Kanyanattha.

Kanyanattha added that the ultimate solution is for opposition parties to move beyond their political base in Bangkok and Thailand's south, and work to woo voters there away from the dominant Pheu Thai party. Until then, she said Thailand's political troubles will continue.