News / Asia

Early Voting in Thai Elections Disrupted in Bangkok

A Thai anti-government protester waves a national flag during ongoing rallies at a protest site at Victory Monument in downtown Bangkok, Jan. 24, 2014.  A Thai anti-government protester waves a national flag during ongoing rallies at a protest site at Victory Monument in downtown Bangkok, Jan. 24, 2014.
x
A Thai anti-government protester waves a national flag during ongoing rallies at a protest site at Victory Monument in downtown Bangkok, Jan. 24, 2014.
A Thai anti-government protester waves a national flag during ongoing rallies at a protest site at Victory Monument in downtown Bangkok, Jan. 24, 2014.
Ron Corben
While early voting in Thailand's general elections proceeded smoothly in the governing party's stronghold in the northern provinces, anti- government protesters disrupted most voting in Bangkok, raising tensions for the week ahead.  The Thai government is holding to the election schedule, despite calls by protesters for broad political reforms before voting takes place.

Senior Thai ministers say the government is to press ahead with general elections scheduled for February 2, despite efforts by anti-government protesters to disrupt advanced voting Sunday and fears of violence.

The Election Commission said 440,000 people were unable to cast advance votes Sunday as 89 of the 375 constituencies nationally were closed. Voters were seen at polling stations waving their national identification cards to cast their vote outside shuttered polling stations.  

In Bangkok, most affected by the protests, just five of 50 polling stations successfully opened.  Voting was also disrupted in Thailand's southern provinces, a base of support for the opposition Democrat Party which is boycotting the February vote.

But Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, said the government would press on with elections as early voting went ahead smoothly elsewhere in Thailand, especially in the northern regions, a stronghold of the governing Pheu Thai Party.

Senior Pheu Thai Party adviser Samarn Lertwongrath says there appears to be general support for the election to go ahead.  

"People still really want to vote, North and Northeast even some protests but they have to let the people vote," said Samarn. "I think the Prime Minister (Yingluck) will insist on that principle, voting on February 2.  I mean voting is for democracy, no voting is against democracy.  We will not allow that to happen and (voting) according to the constitution."  

Anti-government protesters arrived at polling booths before voting began at 8.30 am, leading the Election Commission to cancel voting in those districts.
 
A clash between protesters and government supporters led to the shooting death of a protest leader and left three injured, raising fears of further bloodshed ahead of the polls.  

The anti-government movement, the People's Democratic Reform Council (PDRC) has been calling for the elections to be postponed and wants broad-based political reforms in place before fresh elections.  

PDRC spokesman, Akanat Promphan, says while postponing the vote will ease tensions; the council is still seeking political reforms and the resignation of  Yingluck's government.

"What we are asking for is not to postpone elections, we are asking for reform before elections," said Akanat. "So even if the election is postponed it doesn't really answer our (needs).  The people want reform before election and we will demonstrate until we can achieve that.  That should start the process with Yingluck stepping down."  

Thailand's constitutional court last week ruled the five member Election Commission has the power to postpone the vote but called on the commission to meet with Yingluck, with talks scheduled for Tuesday.

The government says it is stepping up efforts to arrest the protest leaders since Bangkok and surrounding provinces were placed under a state of emergency last week for up to 60 days.  

Protesters charge Yingluck's older brother, former leader, Thaksin Shinawatram ousted in a 2006 coup and who lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, continues to wield substantial influence over the government.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of the opposition Democrat Party, who addressed an ant-government rally Saturday night, says restraint is needed but charges the government with abuses and budget excesses in its populist economic policies.  

"It's necessary for each side to step, to take a step backward and assess each other's situation," said Kraisak. "I'm afraid, this is the most difficult part in the history of Thailand because in the past, past tyrants could stop being tyrants right away if they see massive amounts of discontent as we are seeing today."  

Tens of thousands of largely urban residents protested after a government-sponsored blanket amnesty bill, later annulled, was seen as enabling Thaksin to return to Thailand a free man.

The protests are calling for wider political reforms.  But recent University surveys back the February elections, seen by the government was the way out of the crisis.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid