Frustrated voters say rights violated

national January 27, 2014 00:00

By Pongphon Sarnsamak,
Kanatis S

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After failing to cast advance ballots, many demand polling stations reopen

Thousands of thwarted absentee voters vented their anger yesterday, saying anti-government protesters had denied them their democratic rights.
“All Thais have one right to vote. We are the same. Even if the protesters do not accept this election, they should not block others from entering the polling station and casting their ballot,” said Chana-eak Butrod, a 25-year-old banker.
He was among hundreds of voters who, starting at 7am, were prevented from entering Saint John’s Polytechnic School in Chatuchak district by hundreds of People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) followers.
Only five of the 50 polling stations in Bangkok managed to open, while the rest were blocked by the reform-before-election proponents.
The protesters told Chana-eak that if he wanted to enter the building he had to pass through the protesters lying down on the road. Some of them held hands to form a human chain.
Instead of making up his mind to enter the polling station, Chana-eak decided to wait for a while, hoping that the protesters would allow him to go inside. 
However, at 10am, Issara Somchai, a core PDRC leader, used a loudspeaker to declare that the polling station at Chatuchak was already closed after he had negotiated with the chief of the polling station.
When the protesters were happy with their victory and collected their belongings to go back to the Lat Phrao Intersection, one of the main Bangkok Shutdown bases, Chana-eak decided to enter the polling station and check his name to make sure that he had the right to cast a ballot for advance voting.
“We have a different choice to choose,” the Nong Khai native added.
According to the Chatuchak official, 25,151 people had registered to cast an absentee vote in this area. 
Paisal Akkararattanadilok, from the Don Muang constituency, was also unable to enter the Don Muang District Office to vote. He had arrived at 7am but a troop of 38 PDRC protesters kept him out.
Right after the district chief announced that the advance election was cancelled, he suddenly went to the police station to lodge a complaint.
“Voting is our right. We can make a decision by ourselves about who is good or bad,” he said.
Some voters were standing around the polling station and discussing the cancellation of the advance vote. 
Some of them shouted, “We wanted the election” in front of the polling station. Some of them showed a handmade banner with the message “Respect My Vote”.
A woman who wanted to remain unnamed said that even though she was able to enter the Phasi Charoen District Office, she was upset because her friend could not. The district office had announced the cancellation of advance voting at about 1pm after a PDRC group blocked the building.
In Bang Khuntien district, a group of 200 protesters blocked the district office. 
Pipatchai Paiboon, a Pheu Thai candidate for the constituency, also visited the polling station to cast his vote but the protesters did not allow him to enter. There was a little tussle between him and the protesters.
Another group of 500 people visited the district office and told the officials that they wanted to cast their votes, as they were afraid that they would not be able to fulfil their citizen’s duty in the future.
In Sai Mai, about 300 election supporters called for the polling station to be reopened, after it was blocked by anti-government protesters. 
The scene of people calling for the station re-opening was also repeated in Bang Khuntien and Lat Krabang.
In Bang Kapi alone, over 80,000 people were registered but no ballots could be passed out due to the blockade by the protesters since 6am. The polling station announced the closure at 8.20am.

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