Protesters block most polls in the South

Protesters block most polls in the South

Most parts of the South saw no poll taking place yesterday as the Election Commission (EC) failed to get the ballot papers out of the blocked post offices.

People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters blocked the post offices in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Songkhla and Chumphon to prevent the ballot papers from being distributed to the 14 southern provinces.

In Surat Thani, the EC cancelled the voting in all six constituencies as the party-list ballot papers had not yet been obtained.

Provincial EC chief Wirat Sommaluan said the agency only got the constituency ballot papers, but no one registered to contest the poll.

He also called on more than 700,000 eligible voters to report to their district offices or municipality offices by next Sunday to explain why they were unable to cast the vote so as to secure their political rights.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 residents were reportedly upset by the voting cancellation as they turned up at polling station 46 and 47 in Phunphin district.

Polling station 46 chief Prakij Chaiyamat asked the voters to report the matter to police.

In Chumphon, the provincial EC announced the poll cancellation in all three constituencies as the voting papers had not yet been received at the polling stations.

Prajin Thansirisin, chief of the EC constituency 1 in Chumphon, said the two-round negotiations with the PDRC protestors blocking the post offices were unsuccessful.

PDRC protesters, however, later returned the key for the storeroom of Chumphon post office that kept the ballot papers to office chief Sombat Nupak after the EC announced to cancel the poll in the five upper southern provinces.

The demonstrators had blocked the post office since Jan 21.

Voting in Phangnga province was also cancelled because ballot papers and boxes could not be delivered to polling units, provincial election committee chairman Peera Phetpanich said.

The province was also unable to recruit enough officials to man all polling stations.

The cancellation would be reported to the Election Commission, Mr Peera said.

In Trang, the election was also revoked in all the four constituencies.

Saneh Rakrong, election director for Trang, said none of the four constituencies had received voting ballots supposed to have been sent to them by the central office of the Election Commission as of 8am.

Songkhla election committee also announced the cancellation of voting in the entire province because there were no officials to tend to 1,717 polling units in eight constituencies.

The province is also without voting ballots.

Ampol Thammapalo, chairman of the election committee of Songkhla's Constituency 1, said only nine out of about 200 polling units had managed to recruit nine election officials as required by the law.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat, a Pheu Thai candidate for Constituency 2 yesterday filed a police complaint against the EC for failing to organise the polling station at a school in tambon Tharua in Muang district.

Despite no PDRC protesters blocking the polling station, the EC staff still did not come out to hold the poll there, candidate Natpracha Kuasakul said.

Caretaker provincial EC chief Sombat Jantra said only 5% of 2,010 polling stations in nine constituencies were held for the election in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

In Pattani, the election was marred by a bomb explosion in Khok Pho district on Saturday night, killing an assistant district chief and three soldiers, while on their way to inspect a polling unit.

EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said Jaktra Promkaew, an assistant chief of Khok Pho district, was also the head of polling unit 4 in Pattani's Constituency 2.

Prapas Chainapong, director of the Pattani election committee, said he believed the bombing had nothing to do with the election since it took place during a clash between militants and a village defence team.

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