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Thai Royalists Urge People Not to Vote in July Election

A "No Vote" campaign poster hangs in a shopping district in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, June 10, 2011

A "No Vote" campaign poster hangs in a shopping district in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, June 10, 2011

In Thailand, the political campaign season is fully under way ahead of next month’s closely contested national elections. While much of the attention is on the standoff between the ruling Democrat Party and the opposition Pheu Thai party, there are scores of lesser-known parties vying to be heard.

But one political movement that has played a major role in politics in recent years is now urging people not to vote at all.

Hundreds of members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, known as the Yellow Shirts, marched Friday through Bangkok’s financial district for their unique campaign encouraging Thai people not to vote in the July nationwide election.

The PAD supporters say politicians running for a July 3 election are power hungry and corrupt and should not be allowed to govern.

The protesters rode in the back of pick-up trucks holding mock campaign signs and flyers depicting politicians as animals.

"Vote no!...Tiger! Dog! Buffalo! Uhh! Vote no."

(Photo VOA - Daniel Schearf)

The bright yellow signs feature animals dressed in business suits and they are posted across the city. Authorities are threatening to take down the irreverent posters because they say they do not support any candidates or parties.

While campaign events for the ruling Democrat Party and the opposition Pheu Thai party draw huge crowds at rallies across the country, it is not clear how much public support there is for the no vote campaign.

Krich Thepbamrung is a Yellow Shirt supporter who says if enough people refuse to vote then authorities will be forced to address systemic corruption.

"Yes, we want to choose the leader but it means everything must change first," he says. "[We] must change the politics system first. [It does] not mean from democrat [democracy] to be communist to be other thing - no. We also, we like democracy. We want a democracy. But, it's not mean democracy by vote one time then they hold the power, corruption and corruption. There is a history from so long times ago until today."

The PAD has been an influential party in Thailand’s politics ever since it spurred public protests against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Yellow Shirts accused Mr. Thaksin of being authoritarian, corrupt, and disloyal to the monarchy. He denied the charges but was ousted by the military in a 2006 coup and later fled into exile to avoid jail for corruption.

The PAD returned to the streets after political allies of the former prime minister won a plurality of seats in parliament in 2007. Yellow Shirt protests against the government in 2008 eventually led to the one-week occupation of Bangkok’s main airports.

Political deal-making later brought the Yellow Shirt supported politician Abhisit Vejjajiva to power as prime minister.

But since then, the movement has split into several groups that wield less influence.

Besides the faction calling for voting no in the upcoming election, an extremist faction is calling for a suspension of democracy. Another political faction called the New Politics Party is running candidates in the upcoming election.

Even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose party rose to power partly because of the Yellow Shirt protests, is no longer supported by many in the group. Early this year the PAD turned against Mr. Abhisit for not being tough enough on neighbor Cambodia over a border dispute.