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Thai opposition files bid to annul Feb 2 polls

Publication Date : 05-02-2014


Thailand's opposition Democrat Party has filed a court petition to annul Sunday's general election, piling legal pressure on a caretaker government that has been besieged by street protests since last October.

As voting was partially disrupted by protesters bent on preventing the ruling Puea Thai party from being returned to power, the country faces more polling reruns in the coming weeks.

This, the Democrats argue, will prejudice the decision of voters who were casting the ballot after the main event on Sunday.

"We went into the election on February 2 knowing that there would be no voting at all in nine provinces," former Democrat deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij told The Straits Times. "It's pretty clear."

The party boycotted the election, but its leaders as well as supporters in Bangkok and southern Thailand have supported a prolonged campaign to overthrow the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

In the run-up to Sunday's election, protesters stopped candidates from registering for the polls, surrounded polling centres to stop voters from casting votes, and blocked the delivery of ballots.

They disrupted voting in 67 of 375 constituencies and only 20.5 million out of about 44.6 million eligible voters cast ballots.

The well-funded protesters allege that Yingluck is a proxy of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a tycoon who cut through old patronage networks to become Thailand's premier more than 10 years ago until he was ousted by a military coup in 2006.

Since then, the country has had groups for and against self-exiled Thaksin wrestling for dominance.

In the latest episode, protesters are trying to skirt Puea Thai's electoral dominance by calling for political reforms under a "people's council" before polls.

The political crisis, which has claimed at least 10 lives so far, has shaken Thailand's economic outlook and sparked growing alarm within the international community, including the United States.

"We certainly do not want to see a coup or violence... We are speaking directly to all elements in Thai society to make clear the importance of using democratic and constitutional means to resolve political differences," US State Department spokesman Jen Psaki told reporters.

"We remain concerned that political tensions in Thailand are posing challenges to the democratic institutions and processes of Thailand. We don't take sides... but we continue to urge all sides to commit to sincere dialogue to resolve political differences peacefully and democratically."

Yesterday, after some negotiations between the civil servants and protesters, part of the Government Complex was reopened under the close watch of soldiers.

But the political uncertainty appears to have hit Thailand's attempt to salvage its controversial state rice purchase scheme.

Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan revealed yesterday that an earlier deal for the Thai government to sell 1.2 million tonnes of rice to China has been scrapped after Thailand's anti-graft agency recently began a probe into the state rice price support scheme.

"China lacks confidence to do business with us after the National Anti-Corruption Commission started investigations," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Under the programme, the government bought rice from farmers at about 50 per cent above world prices, which resulted in the state accumulating millions of tonnes of rice that it could not sell without a loss.


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