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Protesters block polling stations in Bangkok, southern Thailand

Feb. 2, 2014 at 8:03 AM   |   Comments

BANGKOK, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Protesters disrupted Thailand's general election Sunday, forcing polling stations in parts of Bangkok and much of the south to close, officials said.

The Election Commission canceled polling in nine of Thailand's 14 southern provinces where there were no constituency candidates, no party-list ballot papers and no workers to staff polling stations, the Bangkok Post reported.

In Bangkok, anti-government protesters forced the closures of most polling stations in the districts of Ratchathewi, Din Daeng and Lak Si. Turnout was reported low in other parts of the city where polling stations were open, officials said.

Elections officials said they would set a new election date for areas where polling stations were unable to open Sunday.

Voting went smoothly in Thailand's north, northeast, central and eastern regions, officials said.

Many voters were angered by protesters blocking polling stations, Britain's Telegraph reported.

"I'm carrying this to hit anyone who tries to stop me voting," said Praneet Tabtimthong, 57, who brought a foot-long, heavy wooden pestle along with her to a polling station. "I'm very very angry about this situation. I have the right to vote, but I can't vote."

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of protests leading up to the elections, called Sunday the day "when you choose your side," The New York Times reported.

The Democratic Party in Thailand and protesters want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave office, alleging she and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire tycoon and former prime minister, are corrupt and have disregarded the rights of the political minority. The opposition wants a non-elected governing body to replace Yingluck's government.

Verapat Pariyawong, a Harvard-trained lawyer and commentator, criticized the opposition's tactics in an email to The New York Times, saying the governing party "is surely a big part of the problem, but to overthrow them and the rule of law altogether will only provide them with legitimate call for more support."

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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