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Thai protesters back on streets ahead of vote

Demonstrators say they want to end the political influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, brother of the current prime minister.

Last updated: 31 Jan 2014 08:02
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Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was greeted supporters in Bangkok [AFP]

Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters have marched through the capital Bangkok as part of a three-day push to show their opposition to elections due on Sunday.

Carrying whistles and waving large flags, protesters marched down streets with Suthep Thaugsuban, the protest leader, greeting supporters and collecting money as he walked.

"I'm not going to vote on Sunday, because [if you do] that means you accept this election. We have been defying this government for a long time. We need to finish it this time," Pongphan Nanthasri said.

The government has vowed to push ahead with the general election despite threats by anti-government protesters that they will disrupt the polls in an attempt to stop the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her Puea Thai party from returning to power.

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said the protesters had prevented ballot boxes from being delivered to polling booths and that the election was likely to be "severely disrupted". 

Drawn-out battle

The anti-government protesters took to the streets in November in the latest round of an eight-year conflict that pits Bangkok's middle class, southern Thais and the royalist establishment against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in 2006.

The main opposition Democrat party, which backs the anti-government protests, is boycotting the election, which Yingluck's party is bound to win but without enough members to achieve a quorum in parliament.

The prospect of polling stations having to close early because of trouble on the streets will only add to doubts about the vote's legitimacy.

Puchong Nutrawong, the secretary-general of the Election Commission, said it was concentrating on security in Bangkok and the south, where the opposition is strong, after hundreds of thousands of people were prevented from casting their ballot during early voting last Sunday when protesters obstructed polling venues.

The protesters say they want to rid the country of the Shinawatra family's political influence and accuse Yingluck, who swept to power in the last election in 2011, of being Thaksin's puppet.

About 10,000 police would be responsible for security on Sunday and the army said it would increase its troops in the capital as back-up.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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