By Chris Brummitt
and Papitchaya Boonngok
BANGKOK: Thailand’s election commission on Thursday called for upcoming polls to be delayed as street battles between security forces and protesters seeking to disrupt the ballot killed a police officer and injured nearly 100 people, dealing fresh blows to the beleaguered government.
The government quickly rejected the call. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra wants the Feb. 2 polls to take place as scheduled, believing she would win handily and renew her mandate. The street violence adds to pressure on her to take a tougher line against the protesters, who are trying to force her from office, risking more chaos and possible intervention by the army.
The hours-long unrest took place outside a Bangkok sports stadium where election candidates were gathering to draw lots for their positions on ballots. Protesters threw rocks as they tried to break into the building to halt the process, while police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
Police said protesters fired live bullets, one of which killed the officer.
Four election commissioners left the stadium by helicopter to escape the violence, some of the sharpest since a long-running dispute between Thailand’s bitterly divided political factions flared anew two months ago, pitching the Southeast Asian country into fresh turmoil.
The protest movement regards the Yingluck administration as corrupt, illegitimate and a proxy for her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by a 2006 military coup. It is demanding that the elections be delayed until Yingluck leaves office and reforms are implemented.
The election commission said in a statement it was urging the government to consider postponing elections, citing the security situation.