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Thailand to proceed with troubled election

Election Commission gives green light for February 2 polls, despite warnings of "chaos" and protests in Bangkok.

Last updated: 28 Jan 2014 14:01
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Yingluck has been battling weeks-long protests calling for her resignation [EPA]

Thailand will go ahead with elections this weekend despite threats by protesters to disrupt the vote, following discussion between the country's Election Commission and the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

The commission had proposed the postponement of polls for 120 days but agreed to press ahead with the February 2 vote after discussions with Yingluck on Tuesday.

"We have to go forward with the election," said Pongthep Thepkanchana, the deputy prime minister.

The commission had argued that the country was too unsettled to go to the polls, said Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a member of the panel.

"We believe chaos will ensue. Our new recommendation is to hold elections within three or four months."

Thailand's capital has been gripped by protests seeking to disrupt February's general election.

In the latest incident, shots were fired near the Bangkok army base where Yingluck was holding the meetings, as hundreds of protesters massed outside. 

At least two people were injured in the gunfire, said Chumpol Jumsai, an anti-government protest leader at the site.

"Someone fired shots. One protester was hurt and the man who fired the shots was hurt, too. They have been sent to different hospitals," Chumpol told the Reuters news agency.

On Sunday, one person was shot dead in a clash as protesters swarmed dozens of polling stations to stop advance voting for February's election.

Government ultimatum

The protesters are demanding Yingluck's resignation to make way for an appointed government to implement reforms to fight corruption.

The conflict broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural backers of Yingluck and her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As the protest movement drags on into its third month, the government has issued an ultimatum to leaders that they face
arrest by Thursday if they do not give up areas of Bangkok they have taken over.

The government has declared a state of emergency in the capital and Chalerm Yoobumrung, the labour minister in charge of enforcing the decree, said an arrest warrant would be sought against the protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, and others on Tuesday.

"If the court issues arrest warrants for the protest leaders at 3pm today, we will start capturing them. Suthep has refused to negotiate with us so we don't know what else to do," Chalerm said.

360

Source:
Reuters
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