Thai protesters march for election boycott
Thai opposition protesters are marching through Bangkok as part of a concerted, three-day effort to put pressure on the government ahead of Sunday\’s election.
As they have done for months, protesters took to the streets, waving Thai flags, blowing whistles, and calling for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.
Demonstrators have already disrupted early voting by blocking polling stations in many parts of the country, raising questions about whether the vote could take place.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said Thursday that while he is urging a boycott of the vote, his group will not disrupt any further voting.
"On February 2, whoever wants the country\’s reform, please join us to show our stance that we want reform. Do not go to the poll."
Protesters say the vote should not be held before widespread reforms take place. Yingluck has argued the election is the only legitimate way to end a months-long political stalemate.
Thailand\’s election commission had called for the vote to be delayed, citing fears of violence that has killed at least 10 people since November.
The army is increasing its presence in the capital to prevent further unrest during the elections, and a state of emergency has already been declared.
But the military, which has staged 18 coups in the past 81 years, has said it will not interfere in the political situation, unless absolutely necessary.
The conflict pits Bangkok\’s urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, remains very influential in Thailand, even though he was convicted of corruption and lives in self-imposed exile.
The opposition Democrat Party says it will boycott the Sunday vote.
Source: VOA and agencies