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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

MP total could fall short if blockades continue
The Nation/ Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Fears that protests will keep 95% minimum from being met; EC to discuss possible poll delay with govt, PDRC

A former election commissioner warned yesterday of an impending political deadlock that could make a new House of Representatives unable to function properly.

Sodsri Sattayathum, former member of the Election Commission (EC), expressed her concern yesterday that the February 2 election may end up producing fewer than the required minimum of 95 per cent of House members.

Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said yesterday it was likely that some commissioners would resign if pre-election violence threatened to escalate. However, he added that he did not think any such resignations would take place in the near future.

“When no other way out is available for the country, the EC members will assess the situation and make our decision when the time is right. We may use this option [resignation] to ease the situation and end the problem,” Somchai said.

He met government representatives yesterday to discuss ways of easing the conflict ahead of the February 2 poll. Protests occurred in many southern provinces after candidacy registration for constituency MPs began on Saturday.

Somchai said he would meet with three high-ranking representatives of the government at an undisclosed location, but he declined to identify them.

The discussion would focus on whether the election could be postponed to avoid further violence, he said.

He would also meet representatives of the main group organising anti-government protests, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), later today.

PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said yesterday the group was happy to meet with election commissioners about the matter.

Sodsri said yesterday that she feared that as candidacy registration was blocked in many provinces, the number of MPs would fall short of the 95-per-cent threshold required to open Parliament.

The Constitution states that the House of Representatives shall be deemed duly formed when a general election returns at least 480 members of the House of Representatives, but not less than 95 per cent of the total number of members.

The House of Representatives is made up of 375 constituency members and 125 “proportional representation” members selected from party lists.

Registrations in seven southern provinces with a total of 32 constituencies remain blocked by anti-government protesters. Sodsri noted that it would only require 25 constituencies to fail to complete registrations for the number of MPs to fall below the 95-per-cent threshold due to Thailand’s “proportional representation” method.

She noted that when she was in office, the EC faced a similar problem when no candidates showed up for by-elections after Democrat MPs in the South resigned. Under the current election law, there is no clause to break this “deadlock”.

At that time, the EC was prepared to have the Auditor General’s Office seek a ruling from the Constitutional Court, she said.

Meanwhile, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said yesterday that 53 countries and two international organisations have issued statements backing Thailand’s election. He said they believed that the election would be an internationally accepted means to return power to the people, he said.

The latest statements were issued by Colombia and Mexico, which praised the planned election as a way to promote public participation and benefit Thailand. They said they would closely monitor the situation in Thailand and hoped for a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution, according to Surapong, who is also in charge of the government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order.

New attack on guards at STR rally site injures six
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Bloody incidents have continued at the rally sites of anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok, with six more civilians injured yesterday afternoon.

One of the victims suffered an injured right eye while protesting in the Makkhawan-Rangsan Bridge area and, as of press time, he was still being treated at Ramathibodi Hospital.

Following the latest incident, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lt-General Camronwit Toopgrajank said he seriously wanted to catch the culprits to clear any distrust and rumours that police officers may be behind these attacks.

“The police work for Thai people and the demonstrators are also Thai people,” he said.

He added that one policeman was also killed during confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Thai-Japan Stadium on Thursday, and suggested that a third party might be instigating violence.

“If you have still photos or video recordings of violent incidents, please forward them to the police. We have cash rewards for useful tip-offs,” Camronwit said.

He added that up to Bt2 million in donations had been given to the police to use as rewards in order to facilitate investigations.

A guard for the anti-government protesters was also killed in the gun attack at 3am on Friday.

Assoc Prof Dr Surasak Leelaudomlipi, director of the Ramathibodhi Hospital, said four protesters had been rushed to the hospital with injuries yesterday afternoon.

“They are between 18 and 26 years old. We have already allowed three of them to return home,” Surasak said.

The patients had been hit by unknown objects, he said.

According to Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Erawan Emergency Medical Services Centre, the first person to hurt was a 24-year-old man. He had injuries to his face, right eye and right arm, and he was still undergoing treatment at the hospital as of press time.

The second patient brought in was a 26-year-old man, who had sustained wounds to his left hand.

The third victim was a 20-year-old man who suffering injuries to the left side of his face and his left knee, while the last victim was an 18-year-old man with wounds on the right side of his forehead.

The Makkhawan-Rangsan Bridge area has been a protest site for demonstrators under the leadership of the Students and People’s Network for Thailand’s Reform (STR) and the Dharma Army.

Samdin Lertbut, a coordinator for the Dharma Army, said the people were injured after two men on a motorcycle hurled giant firecrackers into a tent of volunteer guards at about 1.30pm yesterday.

“Six people were injured. We rushed four to Ramathibodi Hospital,” he said.

PDRC protesters disrupt second day of registration in South
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Anti-government supporters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) continued to disrupt constituency registration of MPs in the South on the second day of registration yesterday.

In Phatthalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani, protesters laid siege to premises where registrations were being held and blocked entrances to prevent candidates and election officials from entering.

Pheu Thai candidates in Surat Thani’s six constituencies, led by core red-shirt leaders Yossawit C

— Phuket Gazette Editors