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The generals and Mr. Abhisit granted themselves additional immunity when they clamped much of Thailand under a “state of emergency” during and after the Red Shirts’ insurrection last year.

Thaksin also wants immunity, or “amnesty,” before he returns to Thailand.

Mrs. Yingluck has said that if she becomes prime minister, she will grant a blanket “amnesty” to several people, including her brother, and she is expected to return the $1.2 billion that the government seized from Thaksin’s accounts.

“During the past five years, it is obvious that the coup was unable to solve any problems,” Mrs. Yingluck told the Bangkok Post. “It only inflicted extreme pain on my family.”

Thai analysts warn that a blanket amnesty could provoke a violent backlash by anti-Thaksin generals, politicians and their supporters.

During a recent televised debate hosted by the BBC, Mr. Abhisit accused Thaksin and his candidates of wanting to “subvert the rule of law” by granting himself amnesty.

While the Reds tend to support Thaksin’s return, they also seek equal justice under the law, a redistribution of wealth and tax-funded assistance, especially for poor agricultural and industrial workers.

They sometimes cast their struggle as a class war between deserving Red “prai” - a feudal description of lower-class citizens - and a selfish “ammart,” or ruling elite, which includes Mr. Abhisit, the military, royalists and many rich politicians and businessmen.

The July 3 election is for 500 seats in parliament’s lower house, contested by several parties that want to form a coalition government. Some parties in Mr. Abhisit’s coalition have offered to switch their loyalty to Mrs. Yingluck if she wins.

All sides in the election offer similar polices, including low-cost health care, financial assistance for the poor, investment in big infrastructure projects, subsidized commodity prices, improvement in education and other tax-funded plans.

Regardless of who wins the election, no change is expected in foreign policy, investment or relations for Thailand - a Buddhist-majority, Southeast Asian nation that is a non-NATO ally of the United States.

Still, many Thais wonder whether the military will tolerate a Yingluck victory or will stage another coup if Mr. Abhisit is defeated after only 30 months in office.

“Reconciliation takes time to achieve,” said retired Maj. Gen. Sanan Kachornprasart, who helps lead a midsized political party in the ruling coalition.

“But if we don’t do anything at all, a civil war may erupt after the election. And this time around, the body count may be higher,” he recently told the Bangkok Post.