Prem stays silent on Democrats' latest call
As several groups call for postponement of the April 2 election and a royally sponsored prime minister to replace caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to end the current political crisis, Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda yesterday voted in advance for next weekend's poll.
On the first of two days of advance voting before the snap election on April 2, Prem joined thousands of others nationwide as he cast his ballot at the Sukhothai School's polling station in Dusit district yesterday morning.
Prem, as His Majesty the King's chief adviser, refused to comment on calls for royal intervention by HM the King to quell the current political crisis. Instead, he urged people to exercise their right to vote.
Prem's move followed the latest call, from the Democrat Party, for a royally sponsored PM.
The Democrats, the main opposition party, drew more than 50,000 supporters to Sanam Luang on Friday night.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva called on Thaksin to quit and asked HM the King to appoint a new prime minister and Cabinet to end the current crisis.
The Democrat's call for royal intervention followed similar calls from academics, activists and other prominent figures, who see the move as a way to peacefully break the political deadlock hanging over the country.
Piphop Thongchai, a leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, one of the groups calling for a royally-sponsored prime minister, said he believed Prem merely wanted to exercise his right to vote, as all eligible voters should do.
"I don't think Prem is hinting the King will not give us a new premier," he said. "Even I have to cast a ballot."
The problem wasn't the election, he said, but rather the result, which could lead to more problems.
Thousands of voters across the country yesterday took the opportunity to cast an advance ballot at their first opportunity.
In Khon Kaen, more than 1,000 voters went to polling stations early in the morning, to avoid the heat.
The local election commission had no reports of, or suspicion of, election irregularities.
Some advance voters in Ubon Ratchathani said they wanted to exercise their right to vote despite doubts the April 2 election will go ahead.
Ubon Ratchathani's local election commission kept a keen eye out for election fraud, particularly a phenomenon that has marked previous polls - groups of voters being transported en-masse to polling stations.
In Nakhon Ratchasima most advance voters were factory workers and military personnel, whose registered residences are in other provinces.
Legally, people wanting to vote outside their constituencies must register in advance, while those who want to vote within their constituency are allowed to inform election officials at polling stations.
In the 2005 poll most advance voters told officials they would be away from home working on election day.
Thaksin dissolved the House on February 23, paving the way for a snap election on April 2.
However, three opposition parties - the Democrats, Chat Thai and Mahachon - have boycotted the poll.
They claimed the dissolution was unfair to all MPs and the public, as the crisis derived from the alleged abuse of power by Thaksin when he sold his family's telecommunications company Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holdings.