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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, August 18, 2018

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Thailand government rejects call to postpone elections

February 2, 2014 was set as the election date

Share on Facebook December 27, 2013, Reporter : BigNewsNet, Reader : 580

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BANGKOK - After clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Bangkok left one policeman dead and dozens injured, Thailand's government Thursday rejected a request from the election commission to postpone a February vote.

In a televised address, deputy prime minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said the general election would go ahead as planned.

"February 2, 2014 was set as the election date in the royal decree dissolving parliament and there is nothing within the constitution or the law that gives the government the authority to change this date," Thepkanjana said.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had called for the early vote as a way to end a political crisis.

Protesters want the prime minister's removal, saying it is necessary to purge the country of corruption and money politics.

The protesters are demanding that Yingluck steps down and political reforms be introduced before any vote, to try to neutralise the power of the billionaire Shinawatra family.

The violence erupted on Thursday when protesters tried to storm a venue where a draw for election ballot numbers was being held. Police fired teargas and rubber bullets to keep the rock-throwing crowd back.

A policeman was killed and three were wounded by gunshots from an unknown attacker who was believed to have been overlooking the clashes from a building.

On Wednesday, the prime minister proposed the creation of an independent national reform council that would work alongside the new government.

The protesters, led by ex-Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, immediately rejected the proposal, saying reforms should be undertaken before any vote.

The main opposition Democrat Party has said it will boycott the election, which the prime minister's Pheu Thai Party was already predicted to win.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire businessman, was ousted in a 2006 military coup. He is living in self-imposed exile overseas after being convicted of corruption.

Yingluck and her brother have the support of Thailand's rural poor, largely because of Thaksin's policies to bring virtually free health care, cheap loans and other benefits to the long-neglected countryside.

But they are disliked by the urban middle class and more educated elite.

Most of the protests, which at first aimed to occupy government buildings, have been peaceful, with police exercising restraint.

However, earlier this month several people died in street clashes in the capital.

The protesters draw strength from the south, Bangkok's middle class and the establishment, who call Yingluck a puppet of Thaksin.

The former telecoms tycoon is a populist hero among millions of poor in the north and northeast whose votes have won his parties every election since 2001, according to Reuters.

The violence and the EC's call for a postponement spell bad news for a government trying to ride out the storm. Yingluck called the election this month in the hope of defusing the crisis. The government said a delay would be unconstitutional.

The protesters want to set up a "people's council" that would eradicate the influence of the "Thaksin regime" and on Wednesday they rejected a proposal from Yingluck to create an independent reform council.

The crisis has dealt a blow to an economy already suffering from weak spending, falling factory output and sluggish growth of exports, accounting for 60 percent of gross domestic product.

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