Thai anti-government protests go on ahead of polls

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Manju Shukla
Date  31/01/2014
Thai anti-government demonstrators have once again taken to the streets of the capital city of Bangkok ahead of Sunday’s controversial general elections.

The opposition protesters, who have vowed to keep up protests against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, staged mass rallies in Bangkok on Friday in an effort to disrupt the planned vote.

The move is seen as part of the opposition’s campaign to overthrow Yingluck’s administration. They want an unelected “people`s council” to oversee political reforms in the country to contain corruption and alleged vote-buying.

The opposition Democrat Party has boycotted the planned vote while anti-government protesters have occupied major intersections and flyovers for weeks.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has also urged his supporters to do their utmost to prevent the vote from taking place.

However, deputy national police spokesman Anucha Romyanan said that 129,000 police would be dispatched to protect ballot boxes and guard over 93,500 polling stations on Sunday.

Ten people have been killed and around 600 others injured in politically related violence since mass opposition rallies against the Thai government began three months ago and many voters fear Sunday`s vote will end in bloodshed.

    “The government must take responsibility if police can`t control the situation and violence breaks out,” Election Commission official Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said.

The commission has said the polls should be delayed due to the volatile situation in the country.

Yingluck called the elections in December 2013 in a bid to ease protests in Bangkok, which were initially triggered by a failed amnesty bill that could have paved the way for her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra - a former prime minister - to return to Thailand without going to jail.

The ex-premier, who was ousted in 2006, has been in self-exile since 2008 to avoid a two-year prison sentence over corruption.

Opposition protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet for her brother.

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