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Thailand elections marred by violence, delays

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Highlights
  • Opposition protest leader: "We fight in peace, with no weapons"
  • Anti-government protesters successfully delayed elections in Bangkok's Laksi district
  • At least eight people have been wounded in violence since Saturday, medical officials say
  • Voting was also called off in Bangkok's Din Daeng district because of protesters' blockade

By Kocha Olarn, Pamela Boykoff and Holly Yan

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Thailand's national election day has morphed into a day of tense uncertainty after chaos prevented voting in several districts.

Of the 375 constituencies nationwide, 92 reported voting-related incidents.

The Bangkok district of Laksi postponed its election for about 87,000 voters Sunday because protesters were blocking the administrative office where the ballot boxes are kept, national security chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr said. The new voting date has not been set.

Laksi, a district of mixed pro- and anti-government sentiment, saw violent protests Saturday when gunfire erupted during anti-government protests, witnesses said. At least eight people have been wounded since Saturday, the Erawan Medical Centre said.

And in the Bangkok district of Din Daeng, voting was called off because government protesters blocked officials from distributing ballot boxes.

A group of government supporters responded by gathering at the Din Daeng district office chanting, "Election, election" and "We want to vote today." They raised their fists and held up their voter registration cards -- but to no avail.

At a rally Sunday, an opposition leader urged protesters to remain peaceful and to continue boycott efforts by shutting down government offices Monday.

"We need to keep our principles. We fight in peace, with no weapons and violence. We only fight with our feet and whistles," People's Democratic Reform Committee leader Suthep Thaugsuban said. "We have the right to a peaceful protest."

Even before voters started casting their ballots, the opposition Democrat Party appeared to be bracing for a battle. On Friday, an attorney for the party filed a petition asking the nation's constitutional court to declare Sunday's election invalid, arguing that some areas could not hold elections and some polling stations would not be able to count votes.

The turmoil stems from a monthslong campaign against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Since November, at least 10 people have died and nearly 600 have been wounded in violence.

Despite the continued chaos, some voters in Bangkok insisted on casting their ballots.

"I'm very excited to exercise my right to vote today," Nopphorn Tabupha said from Bangkok's Bueng Kum district. "I didn't think I would be able to come out. I thought I was going to be blocked by the protesters."

Meanwhile, many opposition activists, including Suriya Phodhikul, have already rejected the vote.

"No, I didn't (vote) -- I want reform before elections. Because if I did, we will only get bad people, corrupt politicians," Phodhikul said.

Shinawatra called this week's elections in December in a bid to ease mounting tensions on the streets of Bangkok. But the demonstrators and the main opposition party with which they're affiliated have already rejected the vote. The Prime Minister's party is expected to win comfortably.

Her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, is a business tycoon who became prime minister before being overthrown in a military coup. He has since lived in exile, but his opponents accuse him of dominating politics from afar, including through his sister.

 

CNN's Kocha Olarn and Pamela Boykoff reported from Bangkok; Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. Journalist Kiki Dhitavat also contributed to this report.

 

The-CNN-Wire

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