Bangkok fraught with uncertainty as polls loom

Bangkok fraught with uncertainty as polls loom
Thai anti-government protesters enjoying a foot massage at Ratchaprasong. Sunday's election is unlikely to solve the political impasse.

THAILAND - Thailand's general election takes place in two days but Bangkok does not look the part.

Key intersections in the capital are barricaded with sandbags and rubber tyres. Government buildings have been hollowed out by protesters intimidating civil servants into stopping work.

Normally laid-back shopping mall security guards check the contents of every customer's bag.

This is not an election that many people in Bangkok and southern Thailand want. For the past three months, they have tried to remove caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as their entire clan, from Thailand's political scene.

As her Puea Thai party is expected to win the polls, the protesters have blocked the registration of candidates, hampered ballot paper delivery and surrounded polling stations during advance voting to deter voters. They want reforms like decentralisation of political power before polls.

In the meantime, Bangkok, a city on edge, is also starting to fray at its edges. The Foreign Ministry, which can normally process close to 7,000 passports every day, is accumulating a daily backlog of about 4,000 passports because of the blockade at Government Complex. The city's normally gridlocked streets are further choked with commuters trying to avoid the blockades.

Blood is spilled almost every other day - in the form of fights, shootings or bombings. Protesters allege that these are state-sponsored acts of violence and make increasing reference to hired "Cambodian" gunmen. Pro-government factions counter that this is a conspiracy to invite military intervention.

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