EC concerns mount over ballot-paper blockades
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EC concerns mount over ballot-paper blockades

Polling in several southern provinces tomorrow remains in doubt with anti-government protesters still blockading three main post offices holding the necessary ballot papers.

The post offices are in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Thung Song district, Songkhla's Hat Yai district and and Chumphon, Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn says.

All ballot papers kept there are for party-list voting, he said yesterday.

The ballot papers are to be used for the election in 14 southern provinces.

Mr Somchai said it will be difficult to deliver them to polling stations in time for tomorrow's election because the protesters are locals who are determined to obstruct the polls.

If the ballot papers cannot be delivered, many more constituencies, as well as the 28 in eight southern provinces with no candidates, will not hold a vote, he said.

New polls could be held on March 2 in these constituencies, Mr Somchai said.

The commissioner also expressed concern about the acute shortage of election staff in the South.

"We only have about 10% of the polling station staff we need in the South," Mr Somchai said. "In some provinces, including Surat Thani and Songkhla, we don't have anybody."

Mr Somchai said the EC will keep trying to recruit people until 8am tomorrow. People turning up to vote tomorrow could be asked to work at the polling stations if staff levels are below what is required, he said.

In Chumphon, ballot boxes kept in a storeroom at Nong Mook School for tomorrow's polls were stolen and thrown into rivers and lakes.

In Krabi, anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters were still blockading the provincial EC office in Muang district yesterday.Some demonstrators also travelled to the post office holding ballot papers in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Thung Song district to reinforce the blockade there.

Krabi EC chief Sompong Tangruek conceded tomorrow's election is unlikely to take place if the ballot papers remain stuck there.

In Surat Thani, provincial EC staff have voiced concerns over safety at polling stations as protesters have vowed to shut them.

Surat Thani police chief Kiattipong Kaosam-ang said he had been asked by the EC to provide security for the election.

He said he was concerned about possible confrontations between PDRC protesters and their opponents.

In Trang, Sanya Krungkaew of the provincial EC office, said party-list ballots had not yet been delivered to the office.

If protesters turn up to obstruct the election, the EC will file a police complaint, he added.

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