Many angry over being denied the right to vote

national February 03, 2014 00:00

By Pongphon Sarnsamak
The Nation

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Interruption of polling in Din Daeng by the PDRC leads to a storm of protests

Many Bangkok voters were angry yesterday as over 400 polling stations were closed and they were obstructed from casting a ballot in the snap election. 
“I was so upset and frightened that I could not enter the polling station and cast my vote. Voting is our civic duty and responsibility. An election means that everyone has the right to express their opinion and we have to respect other people’s opinions as well,” said Petcharat Wongwiset, 62, who flew from Singapore in the morning to vote in Din Daeng.
She wore a white dress with the message “I love Thailand. I go to cast my vote. Peace”. 
But when she learnt she could not cast a vote because the polling was cancelled she was very upset.
The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee had locked and blocked Din Daeng District Office. Hundreds of eligible voters in this constituency gathered and marched to the district office.
They banged the gates that had been locked and shouted “We want the election today!” Voters stormed up to polling chief Issarameth Kachanukul, the head of Din Daeng constituency, and asked him to reopen the polling station. 
A group of police and district officials had formed a human chain to prevent voters from entering the district office, as voters believed that the ballots and boxes were being kept inside the building. “Take the ballot box and reopen the election. I want the election,” Arunsri Mala, 42, yelled while searching for the ballot box and ballots inside the building. She had tried to pass the cordon of police and district officials to search for the box and ballots.
“Take my rights back,” she said.
Like Arunsri, Chatkawee Sriprae,59, was very disappointed at being unable to vote. 
“We are all Thais. We have an equal right to vote and this election would equalise us,” she said while joining voters marching to break down the gates at Din Daeng District Office.
“An election is an important and fair mechanism to select the country’s leader. We have to respect the majority but at the same time, we also have to listen to the minority,” she said.
She agrees with the PDRC’s demand to reform the country but said everyone should have an equal right to participate in the process. 
Issarameth said he had vowed to cancel the voting because the district office was blocked by PDRC protesters in the morning and district officials were unable to take ballot boxes out and distribute them to the polling stations in the area. There was also a small skirmish between the protesters and a group of voters. 
Issarameth said he would report the situation to the Bangkok Election Committee and ask if he can reopen the vote soon. Hundreds of voters queued up to report to police that they could not cast votes as the polling station was blocked.
In Lak Si district, where polling stations have been closed since Saturday, Nut (not her real name), 44, said that before election day she had worried that she would not be able to cast a vote due to the political tension. 
In Don Muang, people woke up early in the morning and flocked to the polling station to cast votes.
Lha Hitkhuntod, 60, was the first person to enter the polling station and cast her ballot.
“I am so happy today that I can cast my vote. I love democracy,” she said.

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