Thai poll body calls for election delay after new unrest
BANGKOK - Agence France-Presse
Thai anti-government protesters wave national flags as they storm a meeting venue between Government and Election Commission at the Air Force auditorium in Bangkok on May 15, 2014. AFP PhotoThailand's Election Commission on Thursday called for the postponement of key parliamentary polls due to be held on July 20 because of political unrest shaking the kingdom.
The appeal came after an attack on an anti-government rally in Bangkok the same day that left three dead.
Hours later opposition demonstrators stormed a meeting between the government and vote officials, forcing caretaker Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and other ministers to flee.
"The election on July 20 is no longer possible. It must be postponed," Election Commission secretary general Puchong Nutrawong told AFP.
"The reason is because today's meeting collapsed and it affects the election timetable," Puchong said.
He said early August was one option for the polls but "may be too soon".
"The election cannot be held if protesters do not agree," Puchong added.
The dismissal of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office last week in a controversial court ruling has sent tensions soaring in the Southeast Asian nation, which has endured years of political turmoil.
Yingluck's supporters have accused the Election Commission of conspiring with the anti-government movement and parts of the judiciary to prevent her party's return to power.
Grenade blasts and gunfire at an anti-government protest site in Bangkok early Thursday left three dead and 23 wounded, stoking fears of wider political violence in the crisis-hit kingdom.
The attack comes as opposition protesters push for the appointment of an unelected premier in a move that has infuriated government supporters.
An election held in February was later annulled after demonstrators blocked voting in many areas.
The opposition refuses to take part in elections unless reforms are held first to tackle what it says is widespread corruption and cronyism.
Thailand has been torn apart by political divisions since 2006 when Yingluck's older brother Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a military coup after frictions with the country's royalist establishment.
Thaksin-led or aligned parties have won every election since 2001, but have also seen four premiers removed by coups or court rulings.