Thai protesters anti-government surround Bangkok sports stadium to try to block election sign-up


Anti-government protesters determined to unseat Thailand's prime minister surrounded a Bangkok sports stadium on Monday in an unsuccessful attempt to block political parties from registering for February elections.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is popular among the rural majority but disliked by the urban middle class and elite, called the 2 February elections to defuse tension after several weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations in the Thai capital.

The attempted blockade comes after the main opposition Democrat Party said over the weekend it will boycott the vote, which Yingluck's ruling party would likely win.

Officials from her party and eight others managed to sign up for the election by slipping into the stadium in the middle of the night, despite the presence of some protesters who had camped out overnight, the state Election Commission said.

"We were aware that protesters would be blocking all entrances, so we went into the stadium at 4am while they were sleeping," said Prompong Nopparit, spokesman of the ruling Pheu Thai party. "Despite all this, the elections will continue as planned on Feb. 2."

With registration continuing for two weeks, the protesters have vowed to continue their blockade.

Bluesky Channel, a web and satellite television station that serves as the voice of the protest movement, showed a protest leader asking followers to guard all the gates to the stadium Monday night as well because representatives of the ruling party had managed to "sneak in" the night before.

More than two dozen other parties were able to begin the registration process at a nearby police station, where they filed complaints saying they were unable to access the main venue because of the blockade, the commission said.