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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid