Anti-government protesters, left in background, stage a rally opposing an advance voting as officials work at a polling station in Bangkok Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. The demonstrators trying to derail a contentious general election scheduled next week in Thailand swarmed dozens of polling stations Sunday, chaining doors and gates shut and blocking hundreds of thousands of voters from casting advance ballots in the latest blow to the country’s increasingly embattled government. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
BANGKOK (AP) — Anti-government demonstrators swarmed dozens of polling stations in Thailand on Sunday to stop advance voting for next week’s general elections, chaining gates shut, threatening voters and preventing hundreds of thousands of people from casting ballots.
A protest faction leader was fatally shot in a confrontation near a voting center that also left 11 people wounded, the city’s emergency services said, and isolated street brawls broke out in several parts of Bangkok.
The chaos underscored the precariousness of Thailand’s fragile democracy, and the increasing weakness of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected administration. Yingluck had called the Feb. 2 vote in a failed bid to ease months of street protests, but police did not disperse the crowds because of longstanding orders to avert violence, which many fear would give the all-powerful army reason to stage a coup.
“It’s a sad day for democracy when the right to vote … is assaulted by a political movement that claims to be striving for reform and people’s empowerment,” Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said of the protesters. “Everything that happened today shows they are striving for the opposite.”
Sunai, who was also unable to vote, said that demonstrators forcefully Login to read more