Thais overseas start voting in 1st election since coup

BANGKOK • Thais overseas begin voting yesterday in the country’s first general election since a military coup in 2014.

About 120,000 voters in 67 countries have registered to cast ballots in advance, according to the Election Commission. The biggest proportion, nearly 14%, is in Australia, followed by the US with almost 13% and China on a little over 9%.

A ruling is due on Thursday from the Constitutional Court on whether to disband a party linked to exiled former Prime Minister (PM) Thaksin Shinawatra over a failed bid to nominate a princess as its PM candidate.

If the party, Thai Raksa Chart, is broken up, the overseas votes it receives could be void. Thaksin or his allies have won every election since 2001, only to be unseated by the courts or the military.

The current stretch of military rule under junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who is seeking to return as PM after the poll, is one of the longest in Thailand’s modern history.

“No matter how far we are from Thailand, we don’t take this opportunity for granted,” said Ruangrin Aksharanugraha, a graduate student and overseas voter in southern California, which is thought to have the largest Thai population outside of Thailand. “One vote means a lot to us.”

Overseas voting runs until March 16 and advanced ballots will be cast in Thailand from the following day. Provisional results are expected on the night of March 24, but the final certification could take weeks under the military-backed constitution. — Bloomberg