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Bid to get around blockades in South

Ruling party, others register at border police base at 3am but legal doubt over move

Candidates in the South were once again stopped from registering for the February 2 election yesterday by members of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) even though election officials agreed to host the registration at a police-run facility in one province.

Election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said a decision to change venues had been made solely by officials at the constituency level and the central Election Commission had nothing to do with it.

Police and constituency poll officials reportedly coordinated the move, which saw the ruling party and others register at a border police camp in Nakhon Si Thammarat at 3am.

"The decision to move venues was not unanimous. Some candidates registered at the 42nd Border Patrol Police Camp in Thung Song district at night, which is not fair for other candidates and might lead to legal problems later. So the provincial and constituency election commissions should report to the EC about this," he said.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat 15 candidates from Pheu Thai, Chart Thai Pattana, Palang Sahakorn and Bhum Jai Thai parties allegedly registered for seven of the nine constituencies at 3am yesterday.

The Pheu Thai candidates were then escorted to the Fourth Army Region Airport by the border patrol police, who also flew Chart Thai Pattana candidates into the registration venue in a helicopter.

With at least two parties registering, the candidates will no longer have to comply with the election regulation that requires them to win at least 20 per cent of eligible votes - otherwise they may have to undergo several elections until the meet the minimum votes required.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said he and representatives of other parties will meet with the EC today to ask that the deadline for registration of candidates in the South - due to end today - be extended due to the disruptions.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut warned that the move to register candidates in different venues in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Thung Song district might result in the election being declared invalid.

He said following incorrect procedures may result in the election being cancelled like what happened in 2006.

The EC and members of the Democrat Party met yesterday to try and resolve the problem of failed candidacy registration in provinces in the South. The outcome was not available as of press time last night.

Chavanond also said Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva will give a speech at 8am today via the Blue Sky TV channel on a seven-point reform blueprint.

He said feedback to the blueprint would be sought from chambers of commerce and anti-corruption agencies tomorrow and on Friday before the reform plan is finalised.

Somchai said EC representatives would also explain to Democrat leaders today why the election must be held. They had wanted to explain this to the PDRC, he said, but an invitation for talks had yet to be accepted.

He said registration of candidates in Songkhla and Phuket has been cancelled.

Separately, an unknown gunman sprayed the house of Thanapol Sukpan - legal adviser to Pheu Thai candidate for Chumphon, Rujinart Srisuwan - with M16 bullets on Monday night. Thanapol believes this attack may be politically motivated.

In another report, the spokesman for the anti-government Students and People's Network for Thailand's Reform has been released on bail, on condition that he not instigate any unrest or disorder.

Phichit Chaimongkhol, who was arrested at a shopping mall on Sunday, was granted release yesterday on a Bt100,000 bail guarantee. He faces trespassing charges after he led a group of protesters into the Foreign Ministry compound in November. Criminal Court judges cited light penalties and his tendency not to flee as reasons for granting bail.

A preliminary hearing has been set for 9am on February 24.

Meanwhile, a taxi driver was shot and wounded by gunmen at the Misakawan intersection on Monday, just before midnight.

Pokket Boonyok, 43, was hit by two gunshots in his right torso but is now safe after hospital treatment. Witnesses said the gunmen approached in a silver pickup before opening fire and fleeing.

New Year celebrations were held at the main anti-government rally site near Democracy Monument, with a Ferris wheel erected in the middle of Rajdamnoen Avenue and protesters taking part in large numbers. All traffic was blocked.

The events, hosted by the PDRC and titled the "Great People's New Year, Hope and Life Force", featured live music by various bands and artists. A Buddhist countdown prayer ceremony was also being considered as of press time.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan asked Bangkok governor and Democrat deputy leader Sukhumbhand Paribatra to offer measures to deal with the PDRC plan to shut down Bangkok after the New Year break. Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt also slammed the plan, saying its much-heralded reform plan would become unpopular if it started violating other people's constitutional right to travel.


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