Thailand govt vows to end protest
26 Jan 2014 - 5:07
A Thai district office worker puts a namelist of candidates for the advance voting in a general election at a polling station in Bangkok yesterday.
BANGKOK: Thai authorities told anti-government protesters yesterday to stop blockading official buildings and not to interfere in early voting in a general election, but promised not to use violence to clear Bangkok streets.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an election for Feb 2 hoping to cement her hold on power in the face of more than two months of protests trying to shove her from office. Advanced polling is set to start today.
“Any move seen as obstructing advance voting on Sunday and on Feb 2 is illegal, subject to either a jail sentence or a fine, or both,” Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in a nationally televised address yesterday. He also heads the government’s crisis committee, the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order.
He said CAPO would talk with protest leaders to ask them to stop occupying government offices. But he insisted there would be no crackdown.
It is still unclear whether the election for Feb 2 will go ahead after a Constitutional Court ruling on Friday opened the possibility for a delay.
The ruling was sought by the Election Commission, which argues that the country is too unstable at the moment to hold a vote and that it would anyway result in too few legitimately elected MPs to form a parliamentary quorum.
One analyst said the ruling would likely be seen as part of the build-up to dislodge Yingluck from office and warned of the potential for violence. Both the Election Commission and the Constitutional Court are widely seen as favouring Yingluck’s opponents.
The government refused to accept a delay in the vote which it would almost surely win and which the opposition vows to boycott.
The government declared a 60-day state of emergency from last Wednesday, hoping to prevent an escalation in protests.
Nine people have died and dozens been wounded in violence, including two grenade attacks in the capital last weekend.
The violence is the worst since 2010, when troops were sent in to end mass protests by supporters of Yingluck’s brother and former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-exile. More than 90 protesters were killed in that crackdown.