Protesters de­mand elec­tions to be held

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - WORLD NEWS -

BANGKOK — About 200 protesters staged a rare demon­stra­tion Tues­day in mil­i­tary-ruled Thai­land, de­mand­ing that there be no fur­ther de­lays in hold­ing elec­tions, which were ex­pected next month but have been put in doubt.

The polls had seemed set for Feb. 24, but that date may slip, ap­par­ently be­cause of the corona­tion of King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn on May 4. Crit­ics of the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment, which seized power in 2014, won­der if it is us­ing the re­cently an­nounced corona­tion date as an ex­cuse to push back the elec­tions.

A key an­nounce­ment ex­pected last week that would have con­firmed the polling day did not hap­pen, sow­ing wide­spread con­fu­sion and doubts that the gov­ern­ment and the elec­tion com­mis­sion have so far failed to clear up.

The peace­ful protesters de­scended with lit­tle ad­vance no­tice on a busy in­ter­sec­tion in Bangkok’s com­mer­cial district. Chant­ing, bang­ing drums and wav­ing plac­ards, they de­manded the poll go ahead on time.

“I am here to de­mand that the gov­ern­ment does not de­lay the elec­tion,” said 74-year-old pro­tester Or­napa Ngam­ban. “If they keep de­lay­ing, I will send them to a hos­pi­tal for treat­ment be­cause there is some­thing wrong with them. Don’t de­lay the elec­tion!”

Un­til re­cently, po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ings of more than five peo­ple were il­le­gal and par­tic­i­pants li­able for ar­rest. On Tues­day, po­lice kept a dis­creet dis­tance and did not in­ter­vene.

The gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha has a long record of promis­ing elec­tions, but then find­ing rea­sons to de­lay. Many op­po­nents be­lieve the cur­rent con­fu­sion is a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to stall un­til he is sure that pro-mil­i­tary par­ties can win enough seats to re­turn him as prime min­is­ter.

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