Mainly peaceful protests against poll in Northeast
Advance voting for the February 2 poll in 20 northeastern, 15 northern and 25 central and eastern provinces proceeded uneventfully yesterday but was blocked by protesters in many southern provinces and Bangkok.
Puchong Nutrawong, secretary-general of the Election Commission, said that in the northeastern province of Surin, voters could still cast their ballots even though anti-government protesters had surrounded polling booths.
In Samut Songkram, voting was cancelled before 8am because protesters had laid siege to the polling stations. Of the 15 southern provinces, Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani could open and some ballots were collected, while the 11 other provinces were closed after the venues were surrounded by protesters.
In Chumphon, election officials could not open voting venues because protesters blocked the entrance with rallies. In other southern provinces, voters could cast their ballots only in some constituencies. Some provinces had no venues because election officials had quit.
There were hardly any anti-government protests in northern provinces, except in Phichit, but voters there could still cast ballots.
The turnout in Chiang Mai, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s home province, was
meagre, while all northeastern provinces were spared any hassles, even Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani, the latter a stronghold of pro-government red shirts.
In Khon Kaen, supporters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee gathered in a show of force at some places but did not disrupt voting.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, 800 PDRC protesters almost clashed with 200 red shirts as they marched to try to block the voting venues in Constituency 1, one kilometre away from the Thao Suranaree Monument. More than 100 riot control police were able to prevent brawls between the two groups. The PDRC protesters could walk and pass through the red shirts within 15 minutes.
In the central province of Ang Thong, 200 PDRC protesters and farmers rallied in front of the voting station to oppose the poll but citizens were still able to cast their ballots. The scene was similar in Rayong.
In Krabi, 10 women in sarongs lined up in front of the PDRC protesters to prevent access to the polling station in Constituency 1, which was 500 metres away. Hundreds of police were deployed to keep the peace.
In Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Constituency 1, only one person, a police officer, managed to cast his ballot, so the district chief closed the polling station.