PDRC calls `biggest rally' to derail poll

Suthep promises not to block public from voting

The People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has called its ``biggest'' rally in another effort to thwart Sunday's election.

The rally will ``completely shut down'' Bangkok, PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban said as he announced the plan yesterday at Pathumwan rally stage.

He called on people who disagree with the election to join the rally and turn city streets into walking streets.

Unlike its polling stations blockade during advance voting last Sunday, Mr Suthep said the PDRC would not prevent people from voting this Sunday.

However, he called on PDRC supporters to rally on every street and park their cars on roads on polling day.

``Those who want to vote and become a servant of the Thaksin regime, just do it, but we won't'' he said.

By Thaksin regime, Mr Suthep was referring to the influence of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Thai politics.

The fresh rally to protest against the election will start today and continue through Sunday, Mr Suthep said.

Protesters from all the PDRC and its allies' rally stages are to join the rally.

The rally will start today at Soi On Nut, moving along Sukhumvit Road to Asok to urge Bangkokians and state officials to join the PDRC protests and not go and vote. The  march tomorrow will be along Lat Phrao Road, starting from the Lat Phrao rally site.
On Saturday, the protesters will wear red and march to Yaowarat to celebrate Chinese New Year, he said.

``We want to announce to the international community that we do not reject democracy but reject fake democracy. We are calling for reform of the country before an election,'' he said.

He said there is no need to worry about losing voting rights for not casting ballots because the election would definitely be nullified later.

According to Mr Suthep, several provinces in the South will have no ballot papers for Sunday's election along with insufficient poll officials.

Caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday pleaded with the anti-government protesters not to block others from casting their ballots.

She made the plea after being asked what she would do if she were blocked from casting her vote on Sunday.

EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn insisted yesterday the EC will be unable to announce the results after voting closes on Sunday.

He said the EC will have to reschedule voting for some two million voters who could not cast their ballots in advance voting last Sunday due to anti-government protests. Fresh voting is likely to take place in late February.

According to Mr Somchai, the result of the party-list system election cannot be announced if a single polling unit out of 99,000 across the country is disrupted.

``It will take at least three to four months. I can't say how long because it depends on the situation,'' he said.

He said the EC will try not to seek more money to fund the election and re-elections.

As for the delay in delivery of ballot papers in the upper South he said that the EC has agreed to relax a regulation to make sure that ballot papers can be delivered to polling units in time.

He added that after waiving the regulation requiring the ballot papers to be stamped with the EC logo, ballot papers are expected to be delivered to polling stations by Saturday.

Anti-government protesters have blocked a postal centre in Chumphon, preventing the distribution of ballot papers to five provinces: Chumphon, Surat Thani, Ranong, Phangnga and Phuket.

About 500 protesters yesterday surrounded a postal centre in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Thung Song district after learning that authorities were preparing to deliver ballot papers to polling units in the province, in Trang, and in Phatthalung.

According to the protesters, the blockade would remain in place until voting ends on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the army has decided not to allow the EC to use army areas as polling stations, said Col Winthai Suwaree, deputy army spokesman.

Still, the army is willing to help maintain security and peace at polling stations.

An army source said army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered army personnel to go and vote to preserve their political rights.

Caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan yesterday ordered all provincial governors to launch pro-election campaigns encouraging people to vote in the election.

Mr Charupong said he instructed the interior permanent secretary to hold a video conference with provincial governors, ordering them to urge as many people as possible to vote.

Asked if there would be more protest violence on Sunday, the caretaker interior minister said he was not worried about further unrest, adding that violence was not being incited by the authorities.

``We don't want to make it sound like a challenge. If they turn violent we have to protect the lives of our people too.

``And those public independent agencies who are prepared to `mess' with the government, I can tell you it is not over. You may topple the government in a few months, but that is not legitimate. Something major will happen if they do,'' he said.

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