2 lakh police to be deployed for Feb 2 snap polls in Thailand

Bangkok: Thailand’s embattled government will deploy 2,00,000 police nationwide for the disputed snap polls on Sunday to foil protesters’ efforts to disrupt the election as they threatened to “completely shutdown” the capital on voting day in their bid to topple premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

“Even though protests are going on, I believe you can go out and vote. I ask everyone involved in the election, particularly security forces, to ensure that people can out and vote,” the caretaker premier told reporters on Wednesday.

The 2,00,000 police personnel will provide security at 93,535 polling units in 375 constituencies across 77 provinces. They will avoid using force if problems arise due to protests, Police Lt Gen Amnart said.

“From an assessment of the situation, we do not believe violence is likely. But if there are any incidents, we believe these will be in only a few areas. We have rapid deployment units ready to cope,” he said.

Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who is in charge of enforcing a 60-day state of emergency imposed last week, said 10,000 police will be deployed in the capital to prevent protesters from blocking polling units.

“Those who are thinking of going and shutting polling stations in the morning should think twice because the police will not allow them to,” he said.

However, defiant protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban urged voters to join the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) at its protest sites throughout Bangkok.

“On February 2, we will completely shutdown Bangkok. Roads will be turned into pedestrian walkways and people do not have to go to vote,” Suthep, a former deputy premier and opposition MP, told protesters.

“Don’t regret for any loss of political rights” resulting from not going to vote, he said.

Protesters said the decision to press ahead with the polls would provide “ammunition” for their months-long rally after the caretaker government failed to reach a consensus with the Election Commission on postponement of the polls yesterday.

Last Sunday, demonstrators prevented an advance voting at many polling stations in the capital and they have vowed to do so again. The advance voting was organised for people who would be unable to cast their votes on February 2.

Protesters, who launched their campaign in November, have been demanding that Yingluck should step down and make way for an unelected “People’s Council” to carry out reforms aimed at curbing the political dominance of the Shinawatra clan.

They accuse her of acting as a proxy for her fugitive brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a coup in 2006. He lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai to escape a jail term on a corruption conviction.