Anti-government protesters yesterday managed to interrupt the first day of candidate registration for the February 2 election, which demonstrators have vowed to disrupt as they push for national reform by a people's council.
Hundreds of protesters began to besiege the Thai-Japanese Sports Stadium, the candidacy registration venue in Din Daeng area, on Sunday night. They blocked six gates to the stadium.
The process of party-list candidate registration had yet to be completed, election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said at a press conference along with his four commission colleagues after the blockade by protesters.
Somchai said all submitted documents needed to be verified, and Election Commission (EC) members had not endorsed the registration, plus political parties had yet to make registration payments.
However, the EC announced that 34 political parties were regarded as submitting their party-list applications before 8:30 am on the first day for registration. They were all eligible for lot drawing to allocate party-list numbers.
EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said representatives from nine parties managed to enter the compound, including the ruling Pheu Thai Party and its coalition Chart Thai Pattana, and Chart Pattana Party, because they arrived early at 3-4am.
He said 24 other parties could not reach the venue and they filed complaints at Din Daeng police Station to notify their intention to contest in the party-list election, while another party filed a complaint at the Police's Crime Suppression Division. Even the five commissioners could not enter the compound.
"We closely monitored the situation. We tried to get into the building but they told us that no guarantee for safety so we decided not to walk through the crowd," Supachai said.
Somchai reaffirmed the EC would neither move registration to another venue nor extend the registration period as scheduled for registration of party-list candidates, currently due to end on Friday, at the stadium.
Somchai said the EC would meet every day to evaluate the situation and set a date for the draw, which will be conducted before all political parties and the media.
Meanwhile, People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban has a plan to prolong the anti-government rally well after New Year's Day and possibly until the election day, according to a source from the PDRC, who asked not to be named. They would celebrate the season at the Democracy Monument, the source said.
Suthep's strategies would include instigation of chaos to create the picture of a failed state, the source alleged.
On Sunday night, EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong sent a letter to inform political parties that if their representatives arrived and could not enter the venue to register party-list candidates by 8.30am yesterday, they should file complaints at Din Daeng police station or the Crime Suppression Division to be entitled for the draw for election numbers.
Puchong said the draw had to be held at the stadium unless there was a violence incident. The EC could announce it was shifting to another venue. However, as a secretary general of the EC, he had yet to file complaints against the protesters for obstructing the candidacy registration, as he needed solid evidence to prove that.
Chart Thai Pattana candidate Somsak Prissananantakul told TNN news channel that the chaos at the registration site was a new phenomenon in Thai political history. It was the first time that candidates faced difficulty in registering. He voiced concern that constituency candidates scheduled to register on from December 28-January 1 would give up, if they feared of their security.
A number of the protesters at the stadium later left to surround Din Daeng police after hearing that political parties went to file complaints at the police station.
Many media personnel were also prevented from getting in or out of the stadium after 6am. About 40 were eventually able to leave at about 2pm and the rest released at 4.30pm.
After the close of registration yesterday, Chumpon Junsai, a PDRC leader, told the protesters to move from Din Daeng police station to continue to surround the Thai-Japanese stadium.
People convicted of hampering the registration of political party candidates face up to five years in jail or a fine up to Bt10,000, Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) spokesman Pol Maj Gen Piya Uthayo said yesterday. He said people who obstruct EC officials from carrying out their duty would face up to two years in jail and a Bt40,000 fine and those block MP candidates would be committing an offence against others' liberty. That was a violation of Article 309 of the criminal code.
Army deputy spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree said Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha issued an instruction to deploy 390 military officials to keep the peace at the Thai-Japanese centre since Sunday night at the request of CAPO after yesterday's dramas.