Thai protesters try to block candidates registering for vote


Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - Page 1

Protesters swarmed around two Bangkok buildings to block candidates from registering for Thailand’s Feb. 2 election, which the demonstrators have vowed to disrupt as they push for an unelected government.

Thirty-four parties, including the ruling party of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, were able to apply for the polls yesterday, the first of a five-day registration period, Thai Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn told reporters in Bangkok.

Not registering was the main opposition Democrat Party, which announced on Saturday that it would boycott the election.

The Democrats are closely aligned with the protest movement led by former party powerbroker Suthep Thaugsuban, who is seeking to erase the political influence of Yingluck’s family.

The demonstrations have sent the baht to the weakest level in more than three years on concern prolonged unrest will hurt Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.

More than 250,000 protesters took to the streets of Bangkok yesterday, the latest in a series of mass protests aimed at toppling Yingluck.

The protesters say her government is illegitimate, run from abroad by her brother, former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and faces a two-year jail term for corruption if he returns.

Demonstrators are calling for Thailand to suspend electoral democracy, saying the nation’s rural poor are influenced by Thaksin’s populist policies. Before elections are held they want a council to rewrite the political rules.

Yingluck dissolved parliament on Dec. 9 and announced the polls, a day after the Democrats resigned en masse to join the demonstrations.

For most of the past two weeks, Yingluck has been campaigning to large crowds in the north and northeast, the nation’s poorest and most populous regions, where her party maintains broad support.

The Democrats, with a support base largely in urban Bangkok and the Thai south, have lost every national election since 1992. The party previously boycotted an election in April 2006, when Thaksin was prime minister, on the grounds that the political system needed reform.

That vote was later invalidated when a court found Thaksin’s party guilty of violating election laws. Thaksin was ousted before another election could be held.

The protesters attempted to disrupt yesterday’s candidate registration at a sports stadium in central Bangkok, blocking all the entrances to the complex.

Nine parties were still able to submit applications there, while a further 25 parties submitted documents at a nearby police station after filing complaints against the protesters, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said.

The protesters later surrounded the police station and cut off water and electricity to the building, police spokesman Piya Uthayo said at a separate briefing.

He warned the protesters that they were violating election laws by stopping the Election Commission from performing its duty.

Suthep has said the protests will continue until Yingluck gives up and his appointed council is in place.