Thai parties hold final campaign rallies before election

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Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of the Palang Pracharat Party delivers a speech to supporters in Bangkok, Friday, March 22. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand’s main political parties held their final major rallies ahead of Sunday’s general election, urging their supporters on and highlighting policies they hope will bring them victory.

The main parties’ prime ministerial candidates spoke at rallies in stadiums in the capital Bangkok. They included Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, whose official trips around the country in the past year increasingly resembled campaigning, and he finally dispensed with all pretext by appearing at Friday’s Palang Pracharath party rally, bringing cheers from thousands of partisans.

Taking to the stage in a classic politician’s garb of a white button-down shirt with rolled-up sleeves, he pumped his fist into the air.

“I thank you for your support and I will repay more than you have given me. I will give my life and my heart. I will die for my country, the country that allows me to have been born, to live and work,” he said. “I will protect this country for our future generations. Who will join me?”

The military said when it took power that it was ending the political unrest that had periodically turned violent and disrupted daily life and development. The claim has been a major selling point for Prayuth.

“If you vote for him, the country will remain peaceful,” said one of his fans, Kularb Panudee. “There won’t be any mobs because he can handle them.”

The Pheu Thai party, which supports exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, held its rally at an indoor stadium in another part of Bangkok. The party’s standard-bearer this year is Sudarat Keyuraphan, who served in several Cabinet posts under Thaksin.

She insisted the party would fight to overcome constitutional hurdles erected against it this time.

“Pheu Thai is here because the people are here with us,” she declared.

A supporter, 48-year-old day laborer Puvanai Jamkrajang, said he has “always voted for Pheu Thai because they deliver results.”

“I hope for democracy, whoever comes into power, I hope they get to remain in power, whoever it is,” he said. “Without democracy, there are no checks and balances.”