Advance election fails in 89 constituencies, protesters block polling booths

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BANGKOK, Jan 27 – Advance elections in 89 of 375 constituencies nationwide were disrupted yesterday after anti-government protesters sealed off the polling stations, according to Thailand’s Election Commission (EC).

 

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, EC member for election administration, said 33 blockaded polling stations were in Bangkok and 56 others in southern provinces, impeding 440,000 eligible voters from exercising their rights.

About two million people throughout the country registered to cast their ballots a week ahead of the Feb 2 general election, representing 22 per cent of eligible voters.

“Sunday’s incidents have led to the Election Commission’s concern that Feb 2 will be plagued with chaos and violence which will possibly lead to deaths and injuries,” he said.

Pro-government Red Shirt activists attacked anti-government protesters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) at the polling booth inside Wat Sri-eam yesterday, killing Suthin Tarathin, 52, and injuring five other people.

About 300 PDRC protesters blocked the polling station at Wat Sri-eam yesterday and told election officials to stop the advance election. They were later surrounded and attacked by about 100 Red Shirt people, some of them carrying weapons.

Mr Somchai said the EC has officially sought assistance from the Defence Ministry, Interior Ministry and National Police Bureau since Thursday but it was found that police and military personnel had difficulty in providing support in six southern provinces.

If all factions insisted on exercising tough action against each other, serious clashes resulting in riot will be inevitable, he said.

He said he has asked caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, in his capacity as an advisory chairman of the Centre for Managing Peace and Order (CMPO), national police chief and permanent secretary for defence to an inspection trip on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week to personally observe the authorities’ difficulties in organising the election.

“If the caretaker government agrees with scheduling a new election date, it must issue a royal decree before Feb 2. A delay will cost the state Bt300 million per day,” he said.

The prime minister and EC chairman will tentatively meet tomorrow to discuss whether the Feb 2 general election will be called off and a new date will be set.