Monday, Feb 2, 2015Monday, Feb 2, 2015

Thai northeast vows poll payback to Shinawatra clan

Published on Jan 31, 2014 1:11 PM
This picture taken on January 29, 2014 in the Thai village of Baan Dong Yaang in Isaan's Udon Thani province, shows women wearing T-shirts carrying pictures of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at a grocery store. Reviled by anti-government protesters in Bangkok, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is again banking on the northeast to vote in droves for the family that brought boom times to Thailand's poorest region. -- PHOTO: AFP

UDON THANI, Thailand (AFP) - In Thailand's wealthy capital, embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra rarely ventures out in public because of fears for her safety. But in much of the vast rural northeast, her billionaire family are heroes.

The stark contrast reflects a deep political split between the government's northern strongholds and opposition heartlands where anti-government protesters are threatening to block polling stations on Sunday to prevent Ms Yingluck's re-election.

Voters in the northeastern region of Isaan, home to a third of the population, have propelled three successive Shinawatra-backed governments to office - the first in 2001 led by Ms Yingluck's elder brother Thaksin.

In the sleepy, sun-baked village of Baan Dong Yaang in Udon Thani province, villagers say their loyalty to Thaksin is just reward for the cash and care he has lavished on Thailand's poorest region.

If you are not a subscriber, you can get instant, unlimited access here