65,000 Chonburi residents cast ballots during chaotic early voting


Some 65,000 Chonburi residents cast early ballots for this weekend’s general election despite traffic gridlock and polling-place chaos.

The warm-up to Sunday’s nationwide parliamentary balloting went anything but smoothly at Banglamung School, where hundreds struggled to find their names on voting lists, properly work the ballot box and determine why computers showed they’d already cast votes hundreds of kilometers away.

Hundreds struggle to find their names on voting lists at Banglamung School in pre-election voting last weekend. Hundreds struggle to find their names on voting lists at Banglamung School in pre-election voting last weekend.

Police also look unprepared for the turnout, as traffic gridlocked much of the Eastern Seaboard.

Despite the organizational disarray, the vote was peaceful with none of the political violence many had feared. Red-shirted supporters of the Pheu Thai Party concerned about government vote tampering restrained themselves to merely watching and photographing poll workers.

Election Commission officials said 65,303 of the 115,592 people who registered for early voting cast ballots June 26.

Visiting the Banglamung polls, Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit noted the province is second only to Bangkok in early votes cast, due to its large population of migrant workers.

Normally, Thais have to return to their registered home town to vote. However, those who live away from home can pre-register to vote a week early. Despite the hundreds of thousands of Northeast Thailand natives working in the Pattaya area, surprisingly few take advantage of the opportunity.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t matter. Ranai Kalerum, 27, was turned away from the Banglamung polling station because records showed he’d already cast a vote earlier that day in Buriram, more than 500 kilometers away. Election Commission officials surmised someone masquerading as Ranai had voted in his home town.

Ranai wasn’t the only frustrated voter in Pattaya. During their visits, Chatpaisit and Chonburi Election Commission Chairman Santipol Patanasanguan both did their best to calm voters, but many still couldn’t locate their named on printed voting rolls. The governor had computers brought in to speed things up.

Despite widespread congestion on the area’s roads, Royal Thai Police Chief Pol. Gen. Wichian Pochabhosri expressed satisfaction during his 2 p.m. visit with the overall peacefulness of the day and the effort police and volunteers were making to keep it that way.