Bangkok clash: 1 dead, 96 injured, Feb election in doubt — The latest toll from yesterday’s clashes between anti-government protesters and police are one police officer killed, 96 people injured, and a scheduled Feb 2 election that is now in serious doubt.
Injured in the clashes were 70 protesters and 26 police, with 82 of them being hospitalized. Four were in critical condition as of last night, according to reports.
The critical included a 17-year-old teen who was shot in the leg, a 30-year-old man who was shot in the head, a 56-year-old man who was shot in the left foot, and a 40-year-old Japanese freelance reporter who was hit in the face by an unidentified object.
The one fatality was Pol Sr Sgt Maj Narong Pitisit, 45, who was shot by a live bullet in the chest and later died at Police General Hospital.
The violence started when protesters from the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand tried to storm the Thai-Japanese Stadium in Din Daeng to disrupt the ballot number draw for the February elections.
The police reportedly gave a warning for the protesters to stop, but they continued.
Police then began firing tear gas and rubber bullets, and the mayhem continued throughout the day, with protesters hurling objects and ping pong bombs back at police.
Several live bullets were fired by unidentified gunmen during the clashes, said a Bangkok Post report.
By the end of the day, police had arrested 14 protesters.
Inside the stadium, the drawing continued and was completed around 9:45, and the Election Commissioners left the premises by helicopters because of the chaos outside.
At 2pm, the Election Commission (EC) members held a press conference and stressed publicly, for the first time, that the Feb election cannot be held in the midst of such violence.
”It is not hard to predict that the election will not be smooth, fair and transparent under the current circumstances,” said EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen.
The EC commissioners said they would use their personal judgement to resolve the situation if the government did not postpone the election.
They said at least three of the five commissioner might resign if the poll is not delayed, meaning the EC would be unable to perform its duties. At least three commissioners must be present in order to legally convene a meeting.
Another option, they said, is for three of the commissioners could vote to postpone the election regardless of whether the law gives them that authority.
The EC said they had warned “concerned parties” that violence could erupt if they persisted with plans to hold the Feb 2 election.
”The elections will not take place unless both parties and other stakeholders hold talks and reach an agreement. The EC is ready to act as a go-between,” they said.
EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn insisted the government has the authority to postpone the election.
The EC statements immediately drew criticism from both the government and protesters, said reports.
The government says the Feb 2 election date was issued under royal decree, and set under the constitution, which says the poll must be held within 60 days of House dissolution.
It also said postponement would only escalate the violence, because there would be no government to deal with the problems and to carry out concrete political reforms.
The protesters said the EC proposal was unacceptable because it would only prolong the caretaker government’s stay in power.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra declined to comment, saying she had not seen the details of the EC statements.
The protests have been ongoing in Bangkok for about two months. They started in opposition to an amnesty bill passed by the ruling Pheu Thai government in parliament, but have morphed into an attempt to force Prime Minister Yingluck to resign and make way for political reforms.
The prime minister dissolved the House and called a snap election for February, but the protesters insist reforms must be enacted before any new election is held.
The protesters’ political allies, the Democrat Party, is boycotting the election – meaning the ruling Pheu Thai Party is almost certain to win the February election if it is held, which would be their sixth straight victory at the polls.
The Thaksin Shinawatra-backed parties have won every election since 2001.