Army to be used for election unrest

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Anti-government protesters in Thailand surround a Bangkok stadium where candidates are due to register for February’s elections, in a bid to disrupt the polls. Sarah Toms reports.


Army asked to intervene ... Anti-government protesters rush to cover a tear gas canister during a violent protest at a sports...

Army asked to intervene … Anti-government protesters rush to cover a tear gas canister during a violent protest at a sports stadium where the Thai Election Commission was registering candidates for Thailand’s upcoming poll on December 26, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
Source: Getty Images




THAILAND’S government said today that it would ask the army to provide security for February elections after violent clashes between police and opposition protesters left two people dead and more than 150 wounded.


Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra‘s government yesterday rejected a call by the kingdom’s election commission to postpone the vote, after a policeman was shot dead during political violence in the capital.

A 30-year-old civilian who was struck by a bullet in the chest during the unrest also died in hospital earlier today, according to the public health ministry.

It said 153 people were injured, of whom 38 were still hospitalised.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said he would ask the armed forces supreme commander for help with security for a second round of registration for constituency candidates due to begin around the country on Saturday.

“I will also ask the military to provide security protection for members of the public on the February 2 election date,” he said in a nationally televised address.

February elections ... Anti-government protesters retreat after police fire tear gas and rubber bullets during a violent prot...

February elections … Anti-government protesters retreat after police fire tear gas and rubber bullets during a violent protest at a sports stadium where two people died. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
Source: Getty Images




WILL THE ARMY MOVE QUELL THE UNREST? COMMENT BELOW

Yingluck’s government – which still enjoys strong support in the northern half of the country – has faced weeks of mass street rallies in the capital seeking to curb her family’s political dominance.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets Thursday at rock-throwing demonstrators who tried to force their way into a sports stadium in the capital where election candidates were gathered to register for the polls.

The security forces denied using live ammunition.

Thailand has been periodically convulsed by political bloodshed since Yingluck’s older brother Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago.

The protesters have vowed to block the February election, saying it will only return Thaksin’s allies to power.

Supporter of the billionaire tycoon-turned-politician, who lives in self-exile, have accused the demonstrators of trying to incite the military to seize power again, in a country which has seen 18 successful or attempted coups since 1932.

But so far the army – traditionally a staunch supporter of the anti-Thaksin establishment – has avoided any public intervention in the unrest, apart from sending a limited number of unarmed troops to guard government buildings.

The army chief was due to hold a press conference later Friday to explain the military’s stance.

The protesters, a mix of southerners, middle class and urban elite, accuse Thaksin of corruption and say he controls his sister’s government from his base in Dubai.

They want an unelected “people’s council” to run the country to oversee loosely-defined reforms – such as an end to alleged “vote buying” — before new elections are held in around a year to 18 months.

The weeks-long unrest, which has drawn tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets, has left seven people dead and about 400 wounded.

It is the worst civil strife since 2010, when more than 90 civilians were killed in a bloody military crackdown on pro-Thaksin protests under the previous government.

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