Thai caretaker gov't to hold elections as planned despite protests

Jan. 29, 2014 at 1:45 AM
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BANGKOK, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Thailand's caretaker government's decision to hold general elections as scheduled amid ongoing anti-governments protests raised new concerns in the country.

The embattled government of caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, confronted with two months of protests demanding her resignation, said Tuesday the elections set for Sunday would go ahead as planned despite opposition demand to postpone them because of the political crisis. Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party is expected to easily win the polls, although the opposition has vowed to boycott them.

A leader of the People's Democratic Reform Committee protest movement told the Bangkok Nation the government's decision only gives the protesters more "ammunition" as any delay in the elections would have taken away the reason to continue with their campaign.

The election decision came after the election commission was not able to reach consensus with the government on delaying the polls.

Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana was quoted as saying putting off the polls could open the door for more trouble, the Nation said.

Over the weekend, the protesters sought to barricade polling stations to stop early voting. One protester identified as Suthin Taratin was shot and killed during clashes with government supporters, police said.

At least nine people have died since the protests began in November.

The Bangkok Post said with the situation remaining unresolved, the election process may go on indefinitely in troubled constituencies especially in Bangkok and surrounding areas.

A senior government source told the Post the process could drag on for months. The source also said if the Constitution Court nullifies Sunday's polls, it would again take months to reschedule them, but could give the government an opportunity to engage in further talks with the protesters.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban told demonstrators that the group would escalate its protest to block Sunday's election, the Post said.

"For PDRC in every province, let's prepare to use all means not to let the election be a success. We will escalate our protest to oust Yingluck and her subordinates before Feb.2," he said.

Election commission member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn was quoted as saying there are no candidates contesting in 28 constituencies while ballot papers for 14 southern provinces still remain at post offices. He warned voting in those provinces may not take place if the papers don't reach them.

The government, however, suggested Sunday's polls should proceed as scheduled but voting should be rescheduled in constituencies where disruptions occur, the Post said.

The protesters oppose the election being overseen by Yingluck's government, demanding that it be conducted by a "people's council." They maintain her government is corrupt and controlled by her brother Thaksin -- a former prime minister and a telecommunications billionaire living in exile since his ouster in a 2006 coup. The government denies the allegations.

A state of emergency remained in effect in the country to let authorities maintain law and order.

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