Beleaguered premier Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday appealed to people to vote in Sunday’s snap polls to determine Thailand’s future as the army said it would deploy more troops to foil efforts by anti-government protesters to derail the disputed election.
“An election is a mechanism to end conflicts due to different political views in one of the best and most peaceful manners,” Yingluck said in a message on her Facebook page.
“This election will be one of the most meaningful elections as it will be a guiding light to the determination of Thailand’s future on the democratic path.”
The caretaker premier’s determination to press ahead with the polls has inflamed tensions in a country wracked by nearly three months of opposition protests, often violent.
Defiant protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban urged voters to join anti-government rallies on Sunday instead of voting, saying people should not regret any loss of political rights resulting from not exercising their their franchise.
More military personnel will be deployed in areas where violence or unrest is imminent, deputy army spokesman Winthai Suvari said.
The Royal Thai Police would deploy most, if not all, of its forces at polling stations to prevent any possible attempt by protesters to disrupt the election.
Over, 2,00,000 police officers would be assigned to ensure security at 93,535 polling stations in 77 provinces, said Amnart Unartngarm, assistant national police chief.
Protesters, who took to the streets in November, are seeking to oust Yingluck and install an unelected “People’s Council” to carry out reforms aimed at curbing the dominance of the Shinawatra clan.
They accuse Yingluck of being a puppet for her fugitive brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006. He lives in self-exile in Dubai.
The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has vowed to disrupt the polls by enforcing a complete shutdown of Bangkok and holding mass rallies on polling day, prompting the army to deploy more troops.
Labour Minister Chalerm Yoombamrung, in charge of enforcing a 60-day emergency imposed last week, urged protesters not to disrupt the vote.
“If the PDRC do that, people will beat each other to a pulp and nobody can control a situation like that…The police and soldiers don’t have enough manpower to take care of (security) at every polling station,” he told reporters.
He yesterday warned protesters against disrupting voting and said: “Those who are thinking of going and shutting polling stations in the morning should think twice because the police will not allow them to.”
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) today sought arrest warrants for Suthep and 18 other protest leaders. The DSI’s first attempt to get court approval for warrants was rejected.
In an apparent symbolic victory for the protesters, the PDRC’s petition for the revocation of the emergency decree was accepted by a civil court.
The court also agreed to urgently deliberate the PDRC’s case for an injunction to protect protesters, PDRC leader Thaworn Senneam said.
The pro-government Thai group United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has cancelled its red-shirt rally planned for tomorrow for fear of violence.
“We reached a conclusion last night that we should not risk facing off with hooligans. We want to avoid unnecessary violence and casualties which could affect the election,” UDD chair Tida Tawornseth said.
The ongoing unrest, sparked by an amnesty bill that could have facilitated Thaksin’s return to the country, has pitted Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother.
Over 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured in violence linked topolitical unrest since November.