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Thailand readies to hold its first post-coup elections on March 24, an event postponed several times by the ruling junta. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)
The Big Story

The 99% election: Thais are worse off after five years of military rule

Ranked the world's most unequal country, a divided Thailand heads to the polls

MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent and MASAYUKI YUDA, Nikkei staff writer | Thailand

KHON KAEN, Thailand/BANGKOK -- When business started to sag a year ago at the shoe factory where she and her husband work, Nui Kalathai began to borrow money from relatives in her village in Khon Kaen, one of the largest provinces in Thailand's northeastern plateau. She has been careful to ask for only small sums -- 400 baht ($12.60) one day, 200 baht on another -- to help cover daily expenses like eggs and dry rations. "It's so hard to survive with little cash," says Nui, who has a 10-year-old son. "I also have borrowed from two money lenders in the factory."

Nui's family is not the only one feeling a cash squeeze. In Chai Nat, a rice bowl in Thailand's central plains, and Phatthalung, a palm oil and rubber-growing province in the south, conversations often turn to financial hardship with little prodding.

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