BANGKOK – Voting began Sunday in Thailand’s troubled election but anti-government protesters forced the closure of more than 10 percent of polling stations nationwide, an Election Commission official said.
“Polling stations have opened,” said Election Commission secretary general Puchong Nutrawong, adding protesters prevented voting across 12 southern provinces and in at least three Bangkok districts.
The snap poll was called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in an unsuccessful attempt to quell rising tensions in the nation, which has seen three months of sometimes bloody rallies aimed at toppling her government.
Voting comes a day after a gunfight rattled the northern Bangkok suburb of Lak Si as government supporters and opposition demonstrators clashed leaving at least seven people injured.
In Thailand’s southern provinces — a stronghold of the anti-government movement — protesters stopped post offices from distributing ballot sheets and boxes to polling stations in 42 constituencies, Puchong added.
In Bangkok election authorities were unable to hold polls in at least three districts.
“They cannot open in Ratchathevi, Din Daeng and Lak Si districts — which was closed last night (after the gunfight),” said Ninart Chalitanon of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration told AFP.
Authorities have said they would boost security around the polls, with police and soldiers on the capital’s streets.
But the government has so far appeared reluctant to use force against the rallies, despite declaring a state of emergency last month.
Voting went ahead in Thailand’s remaining 65 provinces, the Election Commission said, in polls that are widely expected to return Yingluck to power after an election boycott by the main opposition Democrat Party.