Thai interior minister shuts the door on delaying elections


BANGKOK, Dec 27 – Thailand’s caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan insisted today that the government was not empowered to postpone the February 2 elections as suggested by the Election Commission (EC).

He told the EC not to try to pass the buck to the government since the law doesn’t allow a countrywide delay of the elections.

“In my capacity as leader of the Pheu Thai Party, I extend my moral support to the EC and advocate (holding) the elections as scheduled in order to return power to the people,” said Mr Charupong.

He said the law permits delay of elections in specific constituencies, but not nationwide, in case of accident, disaster or riot.

The EC yesterday proposed that the government consider postponing the elections in light of violence and clashes between the authorities and anti-government protesters which resulted in deaths and injuries on both sides.

Puchong Nutrawong, EC secretary general, today expressed appreciation to election officials for organising the election registration for party-list candidates, held at the Thai-Japanese sport stadium since Monday. Today is the final day for registration.

Registrations for constituency candidates will be held throughout the country from tomorrow through January 1.

Mr Puchong officially informed heads of provincial election commissions in Bangkok and all provinces that the registrations for constituency candidates will be held as planned despite violence and calls to delay the general elections.

In case of obstructions or threats against candidacy registration, election officials should immediately file complaints with police and inform the central EC in Bangkok, he said.

Mr Puchong said the EC has instructed the government to delay completion of the referendum on the Bt350 billion water management projects, which has already been conducted in 74 provinces, until after the elections.

The referendum is pending in three provinces – Nakhon Pathom, Kanchanaburi and Bangkok.

The EC was concerned that the referendum will affect the government and the elections including the use of state resources for the purpose, said Mr Puchong.

Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra carried on her inspection of agricultural and transport projects in her native province of Chiang Mai today.

She said she was working as usual, and not taking leave as reported. She requested politicians and election candidates not to accompany her to avoid legal problems.

Ms Yingluck chaired a meeting with senior officials at the International Trade Exhibition Centre in Chiang Mai to follow up on various projects.

Refusing to be interviewed, she said briefly that she hasn’t signed an order to set up the reform assembly.

Ms Yingluck earlier announced her plan to set up a 499-member reform assembly by selecting qualified people from a short list of 2,000 people from all walks of life.