After chaotic clashes between the police and anti-government protesters in Bangkok Thursday that left one police officer dead and dozens of people injured on both sides,the Election Commission of Thailand urged the postponement of the countrys February 2 elections,further clouding the way forward for Thailand after a month of debilitating street protests.
A postponement would be a victory for the protesters,who oppose the elections on the grounds that they will probably return to power the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra,whose party is very popular in the northern half of the country but despised by many southerners and members of the Thai elite.
Charupong Ruangsuwan,the head of the governing party,who is also interior minister in the outgoing government,reacted angrily to the proposed postponement.
I insist that the Election Commission has to comply with the law, he said in televised remarks. The Election Commission has a duty to carry out the whole process.
Over the past month,protesters have raided government ministries,cut power to government offices and police stations and marched through Bangkok in huge numbers.
On Thursday,they attempted to raid the Bangkok stadium where political parties were completing pre-election formalities.
Their attempts to seize the stadium were thwarted by riot police. One police officer was killed by gunfire and 24 others were wounded,including 10 in critical condition,the police said. In addition,several dozen protesters were injured by tear gas and rubber bullets.
Election Commission officials were evacuated by helicopter.
Sunai Phasuk,a senior researcher in Thailand at Human Rights Watch,wrote on Twitter that democracy in Thailand had been hijacked by violence & thuggery.
In comments to reporters on Thursday,the head of the Thailand Election Commission,Somchai Srisuthiyakorn,said he urged the government to postpone elections.
However,he also said the elections would not take place on February 2 unless protesters reached an accommodation with the government.
If theres no understanding or agreement in our society,the election on February 2 is not going to happen, he said.
Thailand is politically divided between north and south and between allies and detractors of Shinawatra clan,the countrys most influential political family. NYT