BANGKOK- Thailand’s government wants controversial elections to go ahead this weekend, a deputy prime minister said Tuesday, despite threats by opposition protesters to disrupt the polls to stop the ruling party returning to power.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was due to meet election officials who want to delay the vote following street violence in which at least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured in grenade attacks, drive-by shootings and clashes.
“We insist that the election on February 2 must be held because the majority of people want the election,” Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who is also the foreign minister, told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
The Thai capital has been shaken by nearly three months of mass street demonstrations demanding Yingluck’s elected government step down to make way for an unelected “people’s council” that would oversee reforms aimed at curbing the dominance of her billionaire family.
The main opposition Democrat Party is boycotting Sunday’s polls, saying reforms are needed to ensure the vote is truly democratic and to prevent abuse of power by the next government.
Advance voting over the weekend was marred by widespread disruption by opposition protesters who besieged polling stations and stopped hundreds of thousands of people from casting ballots.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has threatened to “close every route” to polling stations again for the main election, raising fears of further violence.
An anti-government rally leader was shot dead on Sunday while giving a speech from the back of a pickup truck in a Bangkok suburb, during the campaign by demonstrators to block the advance voting.
In another apparently politically related killing, the body of a man wearing a wristband popular among protesters was found Tuesday near a rally site with several bullet wounds, according to police, although the circumstances of his death were unclear.
“He could be a protester or someone who infiltrated the demonstrators,” said Police Colonel Charoen Srisasalak.