Trying to vote: an aggravating denial of my basic right

national January 27, 2014 00:00

By Pongphon Sarnsamak
The Nation

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Frustration was the only word that explained what echoed in my head and my mind, as I was unable to enter a polling booth for the advance voting yesterday.

Actually it should have been a peaceful day for me to cast my vote at the Saint John’s Polytechnic, where I had registered.
I woke up very early and took my car to the poll station, but once I arrived there I could not enter the building to cast my vote as hundreds of anti-government protesters had blocked it since 7am.
Many protesters lay down on the roads to stop would-be voters from casting their ballots. Some held their hands together to form a human chain in a bid to block the voters. “If you want to enter the polling station and cast your vote, you must step across the protesters lying on the road. You can if you dare,” Issara Somchai, a core leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, said through a loudspeaker to the people who wanted to vote.
At 8am, which was supposed to be the time to open the poll station and allow voters to enter, the door to Saint John’s Polytechnic was still closed by the Chatuchak officials. Only Issara was allowed to enter the poll station. He negotiated with the chief of the poll station to cancel the advance election and shut it down. While the door of the station was still closed, a middle-aged man arrived at the school but was told he could not enter.
“I just want my right to vote. I have the right to cast my vote,” he said.
As he tried to enter the poll station, he was surrounded by a group of anti-government protesters.
Some shouted at him that he was Thaksin’s slave and did not love His Majesty the King.
After talking with the protesters for a while, he was allowed to enter the poll station but he had to step across the protesters lying down on the road.
He was reluctant to make a decision for a while. Finally, he decided to turn back as he did not want to step across any protesters  Picharinee Rattanachammaung, 50, from Chiang Mai province faced the same experience. She tried to show respect to the protesters and asked them to allow her to pass their line.
Eventually, she was allowed through but she could go only a half way and had to turn back as some protesters blocked her.  While standing amid the protesters, she took out a flashlight to shine at them as a gesture. Once she had departed the poll station, protesters blew whistles at her as the sound of victory. 
Around 10am, a 25-year-old Nong Khai native, Chana Ekarot, entered Saint John’s Polytechnic school to check his name and make sure he had the right to cast an advance vote.
“I came here to protect my right to vote, even if I could not cast my vote. I think one man, one vote is still the basic principle of democracy,” he said.
Some would-be voters called in at the Phaholyothin Police Station to report that they were unable to vote.
Prior to the advance voting yesterday, I joined several candle-lighting sessions. My hope then was that the caretaker government would not lose its mind and launch any action that would bring back the painful memories of 2010. I also hoped protesters would come to their senses and not embark on any action that would induce violence. I sincerely didn’t think they would go this far, even blocking others from voting. It’s intimidating and frightening.
To me, the anti-government protesters have turned themselves into anti-election and anti-democracy protesters. Everybody knows that this election contains flaws, but they should not include the flaws intentionally created by these “peaceful” protesters. I was frustrated but still hopeful that I could cast a vote at a later date. It will come one day when we all understand the inviolable rights of all countrymen born in this free country.