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Candidate Registration for Thai Polls Proceeds

Photographs of Poowanida Kunpalin from the ruling Puea Thai Party are seen as her documents are inspected during a registration of election candidates near the Government complex in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 28, 2013.
Thailand took another step toward February 2 general elections with candidates able to register Saturday and Sunday in most provincial regions. Anti-government protesters disrupted registration in seven largely southern regions. Pre-election tensions remain high after a guard at a protest site in the capital was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Thailand's Election Commission said registration of candidates largely proceeded peacefully.

Commissioners said protesters prevented candidate registration in seven provinces, largely in southern areas that are strongholds of the opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the polls.

In Bangkok, where clashes between police and protestors Thursday left to two dead and more than 160 injured, a drive-by shooting at an anti-government protest site Saturday killed one man and wounded several.

Thai anti-government protesters mourn in front of the picture of Yuthana Ong-art, who was shot and killed on Friday night, during a condolence ceremony in Bangkok, Dec. 28, 2013.
Thai anti-government protesters mourn in front of the picture of Yuthana Ong-art, who was shot and killed on Friday night, during a condolence ceremony in Bangkok, Dec. 28, 2013.
Nititorn Lamlhuea, an adviser to a student-led network protesting the poll, said the 26-year-old man killed in the shooting was a volunteer guard at the site.

Nititorn said two vehicles came close to the protest site at about 3.30 am on Saturday and gunmen from one vehicle fired randomly in the direction of the camp. Several were wounded and Yutthana was one of those shot with an automatic rifle. He died later in hospital.

On Sunday afternoon, in another attack, a small explosive device was thrown into the protest area and five people were injured.

The Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand was involved in the clash with police at an election registration venue in central Bangkok Thursday, the worst political violence since 2010.

After Thursday's violence, the Election Commission called on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to postpone the vote. Yingluck has said the February vote is a way for the country to move forward from the political crisis. On Sunday the Civil Service Association of Thailand said it supported calls for the election to be delayed and reforms to be implemented before fresh polls.

Student advisor Nititorn said the protest movement feared more conflict if the election proceeded.

Nititorn said the movement supported the electoral process but the country was not yet ready and wanted to see change beneficial for the people with more involvement with less corruption and reforms.

Yingluck said political reforms could be carried out after the elections and has announced a commission to make recommendations on political and economic changes.

But a protester at the Ratchdamneon rally site Sunday said the early poll would only benefit the governing Pheu Thai Party.

"[The Government] tries to postpone everything and go to the election. That election is not pure [corruption free], it's not good for all the people in the country, it's just good for them, for the government, for the Pheu Thai Party only for the Thaksin Shinawatra. That's it that’s what [Yingluck] wants to do now," he said.

Thaksin is the prime minister's older brother, and has lived in exile since 2008 to avoid a a two-year jail term for corruption. The recent protests started after the government passed an amnesty bill in October seen as favoring Thaksin. The bill was later quashed by the Senate.

Protest leaders are threatening to "seize" Bangkok after the New Year holidays in a bid to halt the election. Government supporters are also threatening to rally. The Thai Army says it will intervene if further bloodshed is beyond control of the police.