Thai Politics: Viagra For Votes

Vote-buying is an old practice in Thai politics, but one candidate for December's Thai election has reportedly come up with a new tactic - handing out Viagra instead of cash.

The allegation, made Thursday by a campaign worker against a rival party, comes as rules about handing out favors to voters have become stricter than ever, barring even the distribution of free T-shirts and soft drinks.

Sayan Nopcha, a campaigner for the People's Power Party in Pathum Thai province just north of Bangkok, said the drug used to treat sexual dysfunction in men was being distributed to elderly male voters at social functions.

Viagra is supposed to be used only on a doctor's advice, but is generally available over the counter in Thailand.

"The politician is giving out Viagra to gain popularity and votes," said Sayan, a local government official whose older brother is the PPP candidate. "I think this is a very bad way of vote-buying."

He would not identify the candidate who allegedly handed out the pills.

Under a tough new law, both the supplier and recipient of vote-buying can face criminal charges. Candidates can be disqualified and their party disbanded, as was the case with the old law, while voters who accept money or gifts can now face from one to 10 years in prison.

More than 4,200 candidates from 41 parties are competing for 480 seats in the lower house of parliament in the Dec. 23 polls - the first to be held after a bloodless military coup ousted elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September last year.

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