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What can we expect from Thailand's March 24 vote?

17 32 24

The people of northeast Thailand have learned to be resilient. More than a century ago, local power was lost to Bangkok which viewed their ethnicity, language, and culture as barbarian. They have been accused of being socialists and communists, and suspected of harbouring republican sentiments. The region is the poorest economically and Northeasterners have long been characterised in popular culture as backwards, buffoonish, uneducated, and gullible.

And yet over the last two decades, the people of this region have been the strongest advocates of democracy and human rights. The political parties they have supported have won every national election since 2001. They are resilient because in the same period three times the party they supported was dissolved by the courts. Twice their prime ministers have been removed by court order. And twice they have been overthrown by military coups.

This region, with a third of the Thai population, has another chance to direct the country's future through the general election scheduled for March 24. Campaign rallies, many with tens of thousands attending, are now common place in the region.

But behind all the cheering and flag waving at rallies in the Northeast, also known as "Isaan", there is also a grim acceptance that the election laws and the new constitution are designed to frustrate the will of the majority. If these legal obstructions prove inadequate, the military junta has other tricks up its sleeve if the vote........

© Al Jazeera