Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Feb 2 election to go ahead; Violence fears raised; Rescue worker charged for rape

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Feb 2 elections will go ahead: Yingluck
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: After holding a meeting with representatives from different political parties and officials from agencies related to the election, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decided yesterday to go ahead with the February 2 poll.

Insisting that her government had no authority to postpone the vote, she said the Election Commission (EC) had the power to get government agencies to cooperate and ensure the election goes smoothly.

Yingluck, who met with representatives from 37 parties, said the majority of the participants insisted that the election go ahead as scheduled.

“Now that the meeting has learned about problems related to the election, we will try to deal with them and send the resolution to the EC,” she said.

The caretaker government invited up to 70 individuals from the EC, political parties, government agencies and political groups, including the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee, to the meeting.

However, the EC was only represented by secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong, while the Democrat Party and the PDRC did not send any representatives.

While General Nipat Thonglek, the permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry, attended the meeting, Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimapragorn sent a representative.

This meeting was held one day after Kittipong Kittayarak, permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry, issued a statement saying the election should be postponed and the caretaker government should review its role.

Upon hearing of the meeting on Tuesday, the EC said Yingluck’s government should have met with the commission alone instead of turning it into such a big affair. The EC has also invited the government to a meeting today, though caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said yesterday that the meeting was not confirmed.

Meanwhile, at the government’s event, Ekachai Chainuvati, an academic and representative of the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD), voiced support for holding the election as scheduled, adding that under the Constitution, the prime minister had no authority to postpone the poll.

He said he believed the EC would appeal to the Constitutional Court to seek a ruling if it is unable to reach an agreement on the election.

“If the prime minister doesn’t want to see Thais kill fellow Thais, then she should not decide to issue a new decree to have the election delayed from February 2,” Ekachai warned.

Council of State secretary-general Chukiert Ratanachaichan said the council would not issue an opinion on whether to postpone the election, though he added that the royal decree on House dissolution and the call for a new election was in effect. Hence, he said, there was no choice but to hold the election as scheduled.

Puchong, meanwhile, said that though the EC had suggested that the election should be delayed, it was still going ahead with its duty of organising the poll.

He said the commission would ask government agencies, state enterprises and other agencies to support its job both in terms of providing election venues and personnel. The EC requires 140,000 members of staff to organise an election, but lacked personnel in many provinces.

Meanwhile Nipat said his office was ready to help the EC hold the election and even provide the space, officers and equipment if the commission sent over an official request.

Bhokin Bhalakula, a key figure of the ruling Pheu Thai Party who is believed to have met with the EC for secret talks, said yesterday that the commission had to go ahead with the election if it wanted to avoid an apocalyptic situation.

Many leaders of small parties also said yesterday that the EC had no authority to postpone the election, and should carry out its duties.

They also complimented Yingluck for her patience in the face of all this pressure, adding that she had their backing. The atmosphere of meeting at the Air Force Headquarters was not difference once former premier Thaksin Shinawatra called the meeting with small parties to tried to end problem, after EC faced many difficulties with holding the election because of the Democrats boycott.

Violence fears realised
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The stakes in the months-long political rally are rising, as more violence is directed at anti-government protesters.

The Bangkok residence of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party leader, was the target of a grenade attack on Tuesday night, while two people near the Pathum Wan rally site were injured in a shooting early yesterday morning.

In a move to cope with the rising number of attacks, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has agreed to cooperate with a new police security plan under which nine checkpoints will be set up near Pathum Wan and Ratchaprasong rally sites to screen people entering the venue to minimise the chance of possible attacks.

The casualty toll for the “Bangkok shutdown”, now entering its fourth day, had grown to seven injuries as of Tuesday night, sustained in three attacks on anti-government rally sites by unknown assailants, according to a Public Health Ministry update released yesterday. The ministry’s toll does not include five deaths that occurred during a red-shirt rally at Rajamangala Stadium late last year.

Since the PDRC launched its campaign late last year, three people have died and 194 have been wounded through attacks and other violence, Dr Narong Sahametapat, permanent secretary of the ministry, said in statement read out yesterday. The incidents cited by Narong included a two-day skirmish between police and protesters at the Thai-Japanese Stadium during candidacy registration.

Early yesterday, a bus chartered by anti-government protesters that was parked at the Nang Lerng Race Course, officially known as the Royal Turf Club, was damaged when a tyre was set on fire.

In what was described as a separate incident, four people were arrested and a 9mm pistol and four grenades were seized when the suspects’ vehicle was stopped at a checkpoint at 3am yesterday. Bang Na police said the four suspects had nothing to do with the bombing of Abhisit’s house.

The four suspects – Anusorn Pinijkhun, 45, Suna Thinkaew, 53, Khamphrai Saengsawaeng, 45, and Thanapha Denmart, 48, a woman – were charged with possessing weapons and carrying them in public without a permit. Suna reportedly confessed to buying the grenades from a friend and carrying the gun for self-defence.

Deputy National Police chief Pol General Aek Angsananont said the seized explosives were Chinese-made RGD-5 grenades, possibly smuggled in, unlike the type used in Abhisit’s home attack, which police did not identify.

Aek had inspected Abhisit’s house on Sukhumvit Soi 31 after a grenade blew a large hole in the roof above a storage room and shattered windows at 11.20pm on Tuesday. No one was hurt in the incident. Abhisit’s family had already moved out, leaving a few caretakers inside.

The motive was probably just to scare people, as was believed to be the case in a drive-by shooting at a coffee shop at the Democrat Party headquarters on Monday night, Aek said.

Pol Colonel Khamthon Ouicharoen, chief of Explosive Ordnance Disposal police, said the grenade picked up at Abhisit’s house was a US-made M-26 mod

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News

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