Thai army deploys 10,000 troops ahead of vote

Thousands of army troops are being deployed in Bangkok ahead of Sunday's election which the opposition plans to disrupt.

Last updated: 30 Jan 2014 09:43
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The government has pressed ahead with the Feb. 2 election, which protesters say they'll disrupt [EPA]

Thailand's army says it will increase the number of troops in the capital on standby to 10,000 ahead of Sunday's election that anti-government protesters say they will disrupt as part of their campaign to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The government's decision to press ahead with the February 2 election has inflamed tensions in the capital, Bangkok, where the protesters have blockaded main intersections and forced many ministries to close their doors this month.

"In addition to the 5,000 soldiers we have already deployed in and around Bangkok to help monitor security, we will be increasing troops around protest sites as there are people trying to instigate violence," army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told Reuters news agency. 

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reports that tens of thousands of police will also be deployed across Thailand as security remains a huge concern for the government.

Protesters have said they plan to fill the streets starting on Thursday through the election on Sunday in Bangkok and in other polling centers around the country as part of its boycott of the vote. Opposition leaders plan to set up stages in public places like city halls to disrupt the vote, but that they say they will not physically prevent anyone from voting at the polls.

The government imposed a state of emergency in the capital from Jan. 22 to help maintain order. A protest leader sought a court ruling on the legality of the emergency and a civil court agreed on Thursday to hear the case.

A prolonged engagement

Demonstrators took to the streets in November in the latest chapter of an eight-year political conflict that pits Bangkok's middle class and southern Thais against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the army in 2006.

Ten people have died and at least 577 have been injured in politically related violence since Nov. 30 according to the Erawan Medical Center, which monitors Bangkok hospitals. A protest leader was killed and around a dozen people were injured in a clash near a polling station during advance voting on Sunday in Bangkok.

The protesters prevented early voting in many parts of Bangkok and the south. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban led a march in the capital on Thursday, the start of a three-day push to demonstrate opposition to the vote and rustle up support for its cause. He wants political reforms before an election is held, with the aim of eradicating the influence of Thaksin and his family.

Yingluck's Puea Thai Party is expected to win the election comfortably. However, not enough candidates have been able to register to provide a quorum for parliament to elect a new government after the election, which could leave the country without a properly functioning government for months until more elections are held.


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