Bangkok — Thailand police use tear gas in clash with protesters: Police in Bangkok fired rounds of tear gas at protesters who tried to storm a sports stadium where preparations for elections were taking place on Thursday morning, say reports.
The anti-government protesters hurled rocks at police in response.
The clashes occurred outside the Thai-Japanese Stadium where candidates in the scheduled February 2 elections were gathering to draw lots for their position on polling paper.
Thai Channel 3 reported that protesters tried to break through Gate 2 of the stadium, and so the police fired tear gas at them at 7:22am.
According to an Associated Press reporter at the scene, the protesters attempted to force their way into the stadium. Police responded by firing tear gas to keep the protesters back, and the protesters threw stones at the police.
Earlier, at 6:40am, representatives of 27 political parties arrived at the stadium for the party-list number draw, according to a report by The Nation News Agency.
Police then reportedly closed all gates to the stadium and parked police vehicles in front of the gates to prevent the protesters from forcing their way through and into the stadium.
At 8am, four Election Commission members arrived at the stadium to chair the party-list candidate number draw, according to Jor Sor 100 traffic radio station in Bangkok. One EC commissioner, Teerawat Thirajojwit, reportedly took sick leave.
At 8:30am, the Election Commission began the draw process by explaining the process of the draw lots for distributing numbers to political parties, said The Nation.
Meanwhile, the chaos outside the stadium continued due to the police firing of tear gas. The Nation reported that the police also used rubber bullets against the protesters.
Thirty out of 34 political parties sent representatives to participate in the draw. The other four parties gave up their right to draw the number.
The largest opposition party, the Democrat Party, is boycotting the February 2 election, insisting that political reforms must take place before the next election. They are also demanding that caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra resign.
The Democrat Party is closely connected to the anti-government protests that have rocked Bangkok for the past two months. Many of the party’s MPs joined the protesters after resigning from parliament en masse earlier this month.
The anti-government protesters, known as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, yesterday announced they would hold rallies on Thursday at the Thai-Japanese Stadium and at Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s home in Bangkok.