Fear of clashes at polling stations; ballot boxes yet to reach many areas in South
The move came amid rising concern of possible clashes and violence between anti-government protesters and supporters of the government.
Ballot boxes and papers have also not reached local election offices in many areas, particularly in the South, due to a blockade by protesters. And there is a severe shortage of officials to man polling stations after many of them resigned.
Meanwhile, the Civil Court refused to issue an injunction yesterday to suspend the state of emergency, pending a judicial review of the case against the government’s imposition of the emergency decree.
The court reasoned that the situation did not warrant an injunction as requested by Thaworn Senneam, a leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). Thaworn filed the suit with the court, alleging that the government had unlawfully declared a state of emergency.
The court will hold the first hearing of the case next Thursday (February 6). Police will work with soldiers in providing security for key Cabinet ministers, such as PM Yingluck Shinawatra and Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, to prevent risks of disorder or disruption when they go to vote, police sources said.
Chalerm is head of the government’s Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, which is in charge of the state of emergency currently in effect in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, and part of Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan.
The prime minister said yesterday she would exercise her right to vote and asked protesters not to prevent others from going to the polls. “I appeal to you not to block voting. Foreign countries will view Thailand as undemocratic,” she said.
Yingluck is expected to vote at a polling station at Klong Lam Chiak School near her home in Lat Phrao, while Chalerm will vote at Wat Bang Bon School near his home in Bang Bon district.
National police chief Pol General Adul Sangsingkaew and other senior officers, including Metropolitan Police commissioner Pol Lt-General Camronwit Thoopkrajank, are expected to go in person to take care of those two polling stations, the sources said.
There will also be extra security at other polling stations in Bangkok where Khunying Pojaman Damapong and General Prem Tinsulanonda are due to cast their ballots, they said.
Camronwit said yesterday that extra police and military personnel would be sent to those polling stations to ensure security for the VIPs going to vote.
More than 200,000 police will be deployed nationwide to keep law and order on the election day and they will be assisted by 7,000 soldiers in the areas where the state of emergency is in place, said Pol Lt-General Amnart An-atngam, who heads the police’s centre to maintain peace during the election.
Adul, the national police chief, said yesterday that there was concern that polling stations in some provinces may be disrupted by protesters, including Bangkok, Samut Songkhram, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Songkhla, Phatthalung, and Trang. Earlier in the day, he chaired a meeting of police units to prepare for the election.
He said police would attempt to prevent a repeat of violence last Sunday, when a protester was shot dead and many others were injured.
The Election Commission has advised election officials to end voting at polling stations if there is a risk of violence or turmoil, election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiy-akorn said yesterday. A new of voting would be called for eligible voters who fail to exercise their right if polling stations are closed prematurely, he said.
The Army will dispatch unarmed soldiers to help police maintain security at polling booths, as requested by the Election Commission and the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree said yesterday.
However, the soldiers would just be around the polling stations, he added.
The First Area Army would keep a close eye on 10 districts in Bangkok for possible clashes between conflicting sides, a source revealed. They are Sai Mai, Don Mueang, Bang Kapi, Wang Thong Lang, Lak Si, Bang Na, Bang Bon, Suan Luang, Min Buri and Bueng Kum.
In a related development, an opinion poll has found that 36.5 per cent of 1,403 respondents were worried there would be violence on the election day, according to results of Rajabhat Suan Dusit University’s Suan Dusit Poll released yesterday.