December 26, 2013
Thai Government Rejects Request to Delay Elections
After clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Bangkok Thursday that left one officer dead and dozens injured, Thailand's government rejected a request from the election commission to postpone a February vote.
In a televised address Thursday, the country's deputy prime minister, Pongthep Thepkanjana, said the general election would go ahead as planned.
"February 2, 2014 was set as the election date in the royal decree dissolving parliament and there is nothing within the constitution or the law that gives the government the authority to change this date."
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had called for the early vote as a way to end a political crisis. Protesters want the prime minister's removal, saying it is necessary to purge the country of corruption and money politics.
They view Ms. Yingluck as a puppet of her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thursday's clashes began after protesters ignored police warnings and stormed a sports stadium in Bangkok where officials were registering candidates for the scheduled February 2 vote.
Police spokesman Piya Uthayo said police came under fire.
"I urge the people, especially those who convinced the protesters to use violence and to invade the building and to attack officers, please stop."
Weeks of protests had forced Ms. Yingluck to call for early elections and dissolve parliament, but she has refused to resign.
On Wednesday, the prime minister proposed the creation of an independent national reform council that would work alongside the new government.
The protesters, led by ex-Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, immediately rejected the proposal, saying reforms should be undertaken before any vote.
The main opposition Democrat Party has said it will boycott the election, which the prime minister's Pheu Thai Party was already predicted to win.
Former Prime Minister Thaksin, a billionaire businessman, was ousted in a 2006 military coup. He lives in self-imposed exile overseas after being convicted of corruption.
Ms. Yingluck and her brother have the support of Thailand's rural poor, largely because of Mr. Thaksin's policies to bring virtually free health care, cheap loans and other benefits to the long-neglected countryside. But they are disliked by the urban middle class and more educated elite.
Most of the protests, which at first aimed to occupy government buildings, have been peaceful, with police exercising restraint. However, earlier this month several people died in street clashes in the capital.