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Protesters Disrupt Thailand Election

Although voting is under way in Thailand's tense national elections, anti-government protesters have forced the closure of hundreds of polling stations in the capital, Bangkok.

The main opposition Democrat Party is boycotting the elections, and protesters were reported to still be in the streets of Bangkok as polls opened Sunday. They have obstructed voting by blocking the distribution of ballots and preventing voters from entering polling stations.

Officials say voting is is proceeding unobstructed in other parts of the country.

Dozens of gunshots were reported Saturday in northern Bangkok, with several people wounded. The Bangkok Post reported that the Thai Elections Commission is keeping 158 polling stations in the Lak Si district closed Sunday and that voting there will take place at a later date.

Protests and violence erupted three months ago when the prime minister's ruling Pheu Thai party sought to grant amnesty to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, remains very influential in Thailand, even though he was convicted of corruption and lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai.

Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite are opposed to the amnesty and have responded to its proposal with calls to oust the government.



Protesters say the vote should not be held before widespread reforms take place, while Prime Minister Yingluck insists the election is the only legitimate way to end the political stalemate.

The election commission had called for the vote to be delayed, citing fears of violence that has killed at least 10 people since November.

The Thai army has increased its presence in the capital to prevent further unrest during the elections and a state of emergency has already been declared.

The military, which has staged 18 coups in the past 81 years, has said it will not interfere in the political situation unless absolutely necessary.

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