Caretaker Thai govt rejects call to delay polls

Caretaker Thai govt rejects call to delay polls
Riot policemen carry an injured colleague after clashes with anti-government protesters near the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok December 26, 2013.

BANGKOK- Thailand's caretaker government rejected a call by the election commission to postpone the Feb 2 polls, after clashes between protesters and police left one policeman dead and scores injured.

"The February 2 election will go ahead," Acting Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana said in a televised address. "There is no law allowing the government to delay the election."

The issue has plunged ASEAN's second-largest economy into deeper political uncertainty three weeks after street protests forced then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to dissolve the House of Representatives and seek a fresh mandate.

Violence broke out yesterday after anti-government protesters, who want the election to be postponed pending political reforms, tried to enter Bangkok stadium. It is being used as a registration centre for political parties registering their party lists.

After warning them, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to repel the invasion while protesters hurled rocks and bottles. In the ensuing melee, one policeman died after being shot in the chest. By about 3pm yesterday, 66 were injured, said the Erawan Emergency Centre.

Both police and protesters accused each other of using excessive violence. Spokesman Akanat Promphan for the self-titled People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) said: "The police… attacked the anti-government protesters."

Still, the election commission (EC) yesterday managed to allocate to 30 political parties the order in which they would appear on the ballot paper. Its commissioners were later evacuated by helicopter from the stadium.

The EC has not changed the venue for party-list registrations despite a blockade by anti-government protest groups from Monday. Its five commissioners issued a statement yesterday urging the caretaker government to postpone the polls until both sides in the conflict reach an agreement.

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