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Thai protesters block building with ballot papers

1 Feb BBC

Thailand's anti-government protesters are blockading buildings where ballot papers are being stored for the general election.

At least one office in Bangkok has been surrounded and several in southern Thailand in an attempt to prevent ballot papers being distributed. The protesters oppose the poll, which is sure to be won by the ruling party.They want the government replaced by an unelected “people's council” to reform the political system.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called the 2 February polls in response to the protests - but the opposition are boycotting them. Voting could well be disrupted and there are fears of violence.Because of disruption to candidate registration, the elections will also not deliver enough MPs for a quorum in parliament, meaning that by-elections will be needed before a government can be approved, extending the instability.Last week, there were chaotic scenes as protesters tried to stop advance voters from casting their ballots.Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister under a previous opposition-led government, said election day polling would not be blocked.

“Those who want to vote should go and vote,” he said on Thursday. “We won't block you from voting otherwise you'll turn around and say we violated your rights.”

But some protesters are already surrounding post offices and other buildings where ballot papers are being kept, preventing them from being distributed to polling stations, reports the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.One election commissioner has predicted that 10% of polling stations will not be able to open at all on Sunday, our correspondent says.

The army says it will increase the number of troops deployed in Bangkok for the polls on Sunday.

Some 10,000 police will also be on the streets.ÓIn addition to the 5,000 soldiers we have already deployed in and around Bangkok to help monitor security, we will be increasing troops around protest sites as there are people trying to instigate violence,” army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told Reuters news agency earlier this week.At least 10 people have been killed since the anti-government campaign began late last year. So far the government “red-shirt” supporters have mostly stayed off the streets, but observers fear a trigger that caused them to protest would spark more violence.

The protests began in November, after the lower house backed a controversial amnesty bill that critics said would allow Ms Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, to return.Mr Thaksin was ousted as prime minister by the military in a 2006 coup.

 

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