We’ll shut poll booths if there’s violence

We’ll shut poll booths if there’s violence

BANGKOK - Thai authorities might close polling booths if violence erupts during tomorrow's disputed election.

That will further undermine the credibility of a vote that is deemed incapable of restoring stability in the polarised country.

The government has vowed to push ahead with the general election despite threats by anti-government protesters, camped out at major intersections in capital Bangkok, that they will disrupt the polls in an attempt to stop Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Puea Thai Party from returning to power.

The prospect of polling stations having to close early because of trouble on the streets will only add to doubts about the vote's legitimacy.

Mr Puchong Nutrawong, secretary-general of the Election Commission, said it was concentrating on security in Bangkok and the south, where the opposition is strong, Reuters reported.

The protesters, members of the People's Democratic Reform Committee, forced polling stations in 49 of 50 districts in Bangkok to shut last weekend. Voting could go ahead in only three of 15 southern provinces.

Said Mr Puchong: "We're focusing our security efforts in Bangkok and in the south. I've asked commission officials to call polling venues in southern Thailand today to ensure we are as prepared as we can be.

"If any polling station faces a security threat it can shut down."

Protesters have threatened to obstruct access to polling stations again tomorrow, although protest leader Mr Suthep Thaugsuban, in an apparent contradiction, said his supporters would not stop people voting.

More than 93,000 polling stations will be set up around the country. The commission, which wanted to postpone the vote because of the volatility, said it had authority to order troops and police to help ensure the election takes place.

"Soldiers are ready to help with the elections," army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said. "The Election Commission is working out which the potential flashpoints are.

"Troops are ready to support but won't go near polling stations. Election venue security is the responsibility of the police."

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