The likelihood of the July 20 election being delayed became clear yesterday when a meeting between the government and the Election Commission (EC) on the issue had to be aborted when anti-government protesters, led by People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, stormed the venue.
The government-EC meeting, which was initially scheduled for Wednesday, was moved to yesterday with the venue changed from the EC headquarters – which is near a PDRC rally site – to an auditorium at the Royal Thai Air Force Academy.
Election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said that before the meeting could discuss details of the poll, security officials informed participants that protesters had stormed the compound.
He said government representatives walked out of the room right away, without scheduling another meeting, adding that he the issue might be discussed via teleconferencing.
The commissioner also said this disruption might cause the election to be postponed from the previously agreed July 20 date.
Caretaker PM’s Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn acknowledged that the failure to reach an agreement and clarify details yesterday meant the election would have to be delayed, adding that the government believes it should be held a week after July 20.
The law requires the Royal Decree on an election to be announced at least 60 days before the polling date, which means that if the election were to be held on July 20, the decree would have to be announced by next Tuesday at the latest.
Suthep and other PDRC leaders, including Satit Wongnongtaey, Witthaya Kaewparadai and Taworn Senneam, led protesters in vehicles to besiege the Royal Thai Air Force’s Kantarat Auditorium where acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan was meeting the EC.
The protesters rallied outside the auditorium and surrounded its gates in an attempt to stop Niwattumrong leaving. However, the prime minister and other Cabinet members along with EC members managed to get away before the protesters broke into the compound at 10.50am.
The meeting, which was closed to the media, had been running for about 20 minutes before it was aborted when the protesters entered the compound and surrounded the building. Police guarding the stairways blocked them from entering the building.
After the commotion ended, Group Captain Rawin Thanomsing, deputy spokesman of the Air Force's Civilian Affairs Division, came out to speak to Suthep.
Suthep told him that he did not want to bring the meeting to an end, but just wanted to speak to the acting prime minister about finding a “solution” for the country.
Later, Suthep took his group to meet the five Election Commission members at the commission’s headquarters at the Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road.
At that meeting, Somchai asked Suthep if he would agree to stop protesting for three to four months in order for the elections to go ahead.
He said that if all groups agreed to stop protesting and if the caretaker government allowed officials to do their jobs without interfering or doing anything that would benefit any particular group in the upcoming election, then the EC could go ahead with polls.
Suthep said Somchai’s proposal sounded good, but insisted on implementing national “reforms” before the elections.