Bangkok, Jan 27 (): A Thai anti-government protest leader was shot dead on Sunday as protesters besieged the polling stations in Bangkok and forced most to close, hindering advance voting in many areas of the capital ahead of a disputed election next week. Piya Utayo, a spokesman for the national police, identified the dead man as Suthin Tharatin, one of the protest leaders. He said Suthin was shot in the head and in the chest.
The Sunday killing has brought the death toll to 10 and many have been left wounded. Protesters took to the streets in November, leading to the the shut down in the capital and forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office. The city’s Erawan emergency centre said nine other people were injured in the shooting with the violence extending doubts over the possibility of next weekend’s ballot.
Over two million people are listed for the advance vote ahead of the February 2 election, which was called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in an effort to resolve growing political tensions after weeks of mass anti-government protests. Demonstrators descended on many polling stations in the Thai capital and in some southern provinces, stopping ballot officials and voters from entering and forcing election authorities to close at least 34 venues.
Immediate reports of violence were not registered but Thai television reported oral clashes between protesters and voters at some polling stations, with the disturbance renewing fears of confusion if the government reporters ahead with next Sunday’s poll. But, polling opened unrestricted in most other parts of the country, including north and north-eastern provinces where the besieged government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has mass support.
The election scheduled for February 2 remains an uncertainty after the Election Commission called for it to be postponed following months of unrest, including the shut-down of some parts of Bangkok and occupying of key ministries. In Thailand, advance voting opens a week earlier than the main polling day.