Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an election for
February 2 in the hope of cementing her hold on power in the face of
more than two months of protests trying to shove her from office.
Advanced polling is set to start on Sunday.
"Any move seen as obstructing advance voting on Sunday and on
February 2 is illegal, subject to either a jail sentence or a fine,
or both," Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in a
nationally televised address on Saturday afternoon. He also heads
the government's crisis committee, the Centre for the Administration
of Peace and Order (CAPO).
He said CAPO would talk with protest leaders to ask them to stop
occupying government offices. But he insisted there would be no
It is still unclear whether the election for February 2 will go
ahead after a Constitutional Court ruling on Friday opened the
possibility for a delay.
The ruling was sought by the Election Commission, which argues that
the country is too unstable at the moment to hold a vote and that it
would anyway result in too few legitimately elected MPs to form a
One analyst said the ruling would likely be seen as part of the
build-up to dislodge Yingluck from office and warned of the
potential for violence.
Both the Election Commission and the Constitutional Court are widely
seen as favoring Yingluck's opponents.
The government has refused to accept a delay in the vote which it
would almost certainly win and which the opposition says it will
STATE OF EMERGENCY IN PLACE
The government declared a 60-day state of emergency from last
Wednesday, hoping to prevent an escalation in protests.
Nine people have died and dozens been wounded in violence, including
two grenade attacks in the capital last weekend.
The violence is the worst since 2010, when troops were sent in to
end mass protests by supporters of Yingluck's brother and former
prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-exile. More
than 90 protesters were killed in that crackdown.
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Anti-government firebrand Suthep Thaugsuban led thousands in a march
on Saturday. He accuses the government of mass corruption and wants
it replaced by an unelected "people's council" to push through
electoral and political changes.
The protests are the latest eruption in a political conflict that
has gripped the country for eight years and is beginning to hurt
growth and investor confidence in Southeast Asia's second biggest
It broadly pits the Bangkok middle class and royalist establishment
against the mainly poorer supporters of Yingluck and her brother,
who was toppled by the military in 2006.
So far the military, which has been involved in 18 actual or
attempted coups in the past 81 years, has kept out of the dispute.
Police are charged with enforcing the state of emergency and are
under orders from Yingluck to handle protesters with restraint.
The emergency decree gives security agencies powers to detain
suspects, impose a curfew and limit gatherings, but some analysts
said it was in part designed to give Yingluck legal protection if
police step in.
(Writing by Jonathan Thatcher; editing by Ron Popeski)
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