News / Asia

Thais Vote Amid High Security, Heightened Fears of Violence

Thai voters wait in queue to cast ballot for the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 2, 2014.
Thai voters wait in queue to cast ballot for the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 2, 2014.
Ron Corben
Thai voters are casting ballots amid intense security Sunday, less than 24 hours after at least six people were wounded by gunshots and explosions when fighting broke between supporters and opponents of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a northern Bangkok Puea Thai Party stronghold.
 
The clashes broke out late Saturday when anti-government protesters, most of whom are boycotting the election, tried to block deliveries of ballot papers.
 
With the risk of further bloodshed running high when polls open, it is unclear whether the outcome of Sunday's election can ease the country's deep ideological divisions and widespread fears of further violence, or push the country deeper into political turmoil, protests and legislative limbo.
 
Prime Minister Yingluck called Sunday's snap election in a bid to end street protests against her government, after passage of a controversial amnesty bill seen as absolution for her older brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives abroad but faces a prison sentence in Thailand for corruption.
 
The secretary-general of the prime minister's office, Suranand Vejjajiva, defended the election and recently told VOA it was a way of easing the national political crisis.
 
"It's very important for Thai democracy, the February 2 poll,” said Suranand. “Of course the election is not everything; the election is part of the democratic process. But once the prime minister has dissolved the House [parliament], you have to go to elections."
 
An anti-government supporter wearing a cap with a An anti-government supporter wearing a cap with a "No vote" sticker attends a march through China Town in Bangkok, Feb. 1, 2014.
x
An anti-government supporter wearing a cap with a
An anti-government supporter wearing a cap with a "No vote" sticker attends a march through China Town in Bangkok, Feb. 1, 2014.
The anti-government protest movement strongly disagrees. Former lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban of the opposition Democrat Party, which is actively boycotting the polls, said Thailand needed political reforms before any elections could take place.
 
Specifically, Suthep said the opposition wanted Yingluck to step down, in order to end Thaksin's perceived influence over the Thai government from abroad.
 
Chuwit Kamolvisit, leader of the Rak Thailand Party, a smaller group that is taking part in the election, says he predicts more violence in coming days, and that the Democrat Party's call for an election boycott was a strategic mistake on part of the group's leader, Abhisit Vejjaijiva.

"Big mistake, because if [Abhisit] goes to the election, he can claim the vote 'no' [as] the Democrat vote," said Chuwit. "If someone votes 'no' [it] means 'I'm against the Thaksin regime.' Abhisit can claim that [if there is no boycott]. That's so easy. We can make sure we can see the vote. We don't need to fight, we don't need to sit down on the street."
 
In a bid to avoid a repeat of clashes last weekend when voters were obstructed during early voting, the government plans to deploy 10,000 police in Bangkok alone on Sunday.
 
While leaders of the anti-government protest movement say their constituents would not prevent people from voting, protesters in Phuket province Saturday blocked the main police station in an effort to prevent ballots from being sent to polling stations.
 
The pro-government "red-shirt" movement is calling on its supporters to boost the election turnout despite the threats and uncertainties.
 
Thailand's Election Commission, overseeing the vote, said disruptions at the polls could mean months of delay and by-elections before a new 500-member House of Representatives can convene. But even before then, some analysts say, the courts could nullify the election altogether.
 
Thai Prime Minister and Pheu Thai party leader Yingluck Shinawatra poses before casting her ballot in the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 2, 2014.Thai Prime Minister and Pheu Thai party leader Yingluck Shinawatra poses before casting her ballot in the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 2, 2014.
x
Thai Prime Minister and Pheu Thai party leader Yingluck Shinawatra poses before casting her ballot in the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 2, 2014.
Thai Prime Minister and Pheu Thai party leader Yingluck Shinawatra poses before casting her ballot in the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 2, 2014.
Yingluck's government rejected the Election Commission's call to postpone the vote because of the fears of violence, and a shortage of tens of thousands of election-day volunteers. The boycott is having a noticeable effect in southern Thailand, where at least 28 districts have no registered candidates, and another two dozen have only a single candidate running unopposed.
 
Thailand's present political uncertainties and tensions have led to 10 deaths since November and almost 600 people injured.
 
Economists said the political tensions have taken a toll on the economy, with $1.3 billion in lost income from tourism and the central bank warning of more economic consequences to come.

Some information for this report comes from Reuters.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

Al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: lightcandle from: USA
February 02, 2014 12:33 AM
I lilke K. Chuwit comments. We need other policians to come out and positively help finding the way out of these issues in sustainable and democratically manner. It seems Suthep and Aphisit failed to play the game for a long time. The Dem needs new strategy and possibly new blood to join and reach out to rural voters.

Chuwit Kamolvisit, leader of the Rak Thailand Party, a smaller group that is taking part in the election, says he predicts more violence in coming days, and that the Democrat Party's call for an election boycott was a strategic mistake on part of the group's leader, Abhisit Vejjaijiva.

"Big mistake, because if [Abhisit] goes to the election, he can claim the vote 'no' [as] the Democrat vote," said Chuwit. "If someone votes 'no' [it] means 'I'm against the Thaksin regime.' Abhisit can claim that [if there is no boycott]. That's so easy. We can make sure we can see the vote. We don't need to fight, we don't need to sit down on the street."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs