02/07/2005, 00.00
THAILAND
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Almost certain the re-election of Thaksin Shinawatra

Exit polls give Thai tycoon an overwhelming majority. Human rights activists remain critical of his policies.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Final results in yesterday's parliamentary elections are expected this afternoon and Thai Rak Thai (Thais loving Thais) Party is poised to win 399 of the 500 seat parliament.

Elections officials said that turnout was high among the country's more than 44 million voters who cast their ballot in 80,000 polling stations across the country.

Outgoing Prime Minister and Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra is almost certain to succeed himself for another four-year mandate. At 55, the founder and owner of Shin Corporation, the country's most important telecommunication conglomerate, which includes 60 different companies, is Thailand's only elected politician to complete an entire mandate.

Opposition leaders complain that such a victory gives the ruling party the means to centralise power so much that it amounts to a one-party state.

Despite such misgivings, Banyat Bantadtan, leader of the Democratic Party, conceded defeat saying:  ""I was shocked when I saw the exit polls . . . but we have to accept what the public gave us".

Economic analysts explain that in the last four years the country's economy has undeniably improved under Thaksin Shinawatra, who is seen by many as a good manager of public finances, who further proved himself during the recent tsunami crisis.

During the campaign, he has promised to spend at least US$ 25 billion on new infrastructural development, but has come under fire for his social and human rights policies.

In his 2003 'war on drugs', 2,500 people died, killed by police, according to authorities, whilst resisting arrest, murdered by officers given shoot-to-kill orders, according to human rights groups, who claim the dead were largely innocent and denied due process.

Furthermore, more than 500 Muslims were killed last year in the southern part of the country in shootouts with the military or in police custody on suspicion of being extremists. More often than not, they were guilty simply of asking the government to improve living conditions in the predominantly Muslim south.

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