Thailand unrest: Protesters throw general election into chaos - Asia - World - The Independent

Thailand unrest: Protesters throw general election into chaos

Country likely to be stuck in political limbo for months

Bangkok

Snap general elections intended to defuse the political crisis in Thailand descended into chaos yesterday as anti-government protesters blocked voting across swathes of the country.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is expected to win by a landslide off the back of strong support in the country’s north, but an official result is expected to take weeks to come through, after millions of people were left disenfranchised following a boycott of the vote by the main opposition Democrat Party. By-elections are already being planned for the end of February.

“I don’t think the election should [have gone] ahead today but I didn’t want to lose my right to vote,” said Phorntiwa Vijatomane, a tour operator, after casting her ballot in northern Bangkok yesterday. “Nothing is going to change if the same people come to vote for the government again.”

Anti-government protests have paralysed parts of Bangkok over the past three months, with sporadic violence leaving at least 11 dead and hundreds more injured. The standoff prompted the government to dissolve parliament and implement a two-month state of emergency in and around the capital.

 

The opposition had called for reforms before voting took place, and demands that an unelected caretaker administration take over control of the country from the current government, which they accuse of being corrupt.

Former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the protests, has said he plans to sue the government for holding the elections.

Violence between pro-government “red-shirts” and anti-government “yellow-shirts” has escalated in recent weeks, particularly in Bangkok. A gun battle between rival party supporters left nine people injured on the eve of the election in the northern Bangkok suburb Lak Si. Polls in the area were closed to try to prevent further clashes.

Though yesterday’s vote was more subdued, gunshots were also heard in Din Daeng, another district in the capital, as voters forced their way into a polling booth blocked  by protesters.

Chuwit Kamolvisit, a massage-parlour tycoon turned politician, was involved in a brawl on his way to vote in Bangkok after he was attacked by a protester.

Government supporters have accused some election officials of co-operating with the opposition in order to block voting.

In central Bangkok’s Ratchathewi, voters made their own ballot papers and boxes after a delivery of official equipment was blocked by the anti-government movement.

“The Ratchathewi district chief doesn’t want an election so we’ll vote by ourselves,” read a banner outside the makeshift polling station.

In the south, where the opposition enjoys widespread support, no voting took place in nine provinces, including the beach resorts of Phuket and Krabi.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after voting at a polling station in Bangkok Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after voting at a polling station in Bangkok

In Thailand’s four southernmost provinces, only partial voting could take place after some of the ballot papers were blocked from being delivered.

The clashes have highlighted further divisions in the country, including a separatist movement in the far south, where a long-term, sporadic uprising has left dozens of people dead including soldiers and teachers.

Thailand has endured eight years of cyclical political crises since a coup in 2006 ousted the popular but divisive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the incumbent’s billionaire brother and a former chairman of Manchester City. He remains in self-exile in Dubai to avoid corruption charges which he says are politically-motivated.

With multiple by-elections on the horizon, there is little sign of the current crisis waning during the weeks to come.

“The political struggle is still ongoing,” said Thanet Apornsuwan, a history professor at Bangkok’s Thammassat University. “The two forces have been unable to come to any discussion or negotiation.”

Analysts have in part blamed the country’s troubles on uncertainty surrounding who will succeed ailing  86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

Despite draconian lese majeste laws threatening  15 years in prison for those who discuss the palace, speculation on social media has increased over whether Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn – who is linked to Thaksin – will follow his father as first in line to the throne.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week