Thailand to go ahead with February 2 poll

January 29, 2014 - 6:54:27 am

A policeman stands in front of anti-government protesters outside the venue of a meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and election officials at the Army Club in Bangkok yesterday.

BANGKOK:  Thailand’s prime minister has confirmed a general election will go ahead on Sunday despite a warning that it could end in chaos in the face of months of at times violent anti-government protests.

In a separate part of an army complex in Bangkok where Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was meeting Election Commission officials, shots were fired in a group of anti-government protesters. Two people were injured.

“We have to go forward with the election. The Election Commission will organise the election under the framework of the constitution and try to avoid any violence,” Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana told a news conference.

Yingluck had called the snap election in the hope of confirming her hold on power and putting an end to the protests in the capital which began in November in an attempt to force her from office.

The protesters have rejected the election, which Yingluck’s ruling party looks set to win, and prevented advance voting in many parts of Bangkok and the south. 

The Commission has been pressing for a delay in the election because of the unrest and wants it delayed by up to four months.

Ten people have been killed since the protests began and hundreds have been wounded. 

The latest shooting was where about 500 anti-government protesters had gathered at the Army Club compound in Bangkok where Yingluck held a cabinet meeting before meeting the Election Commission. The shooting took place far from that meeting.

“Someone fired shots. One protester was hurt and the man who fired the shots was hurt too. They have been sent to different hospitals,” Chumpol Jumsai, a protest leader who was at the facility in north Bangkok, said.

The protesters want to suspend what they say is a fragile democracy destabilised by former telecoms tycoon Thaksin, whom they accuse of nepotism and corruption. 

The Election Commission argued that the country is too unsettled to hold an election now. It also points out that candidates have been unable to register in some constituencies, meaning there would not be a quorum to open parliament even if voting went ahead.

“We believe chaos will ensue ... Our new recommendation is to hold elections within three or four months,” Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a member of the Election Commission, told reporters as he went into the meeting.

As the protest movement drags on,  the government has issued an ultimatum to leaders that they face arrest by Thursday if they do not give up areas of Bangkok they have taken over.

The government has declared a state of emergency in the capital and Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobumrung, in charge of enforcing the decree, said an arrest warrant would be sought against protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and others yesterday.

Reuters

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