2014-02-01 18:50:25

Thailand prepares for elections amid on-going protests

(Vatican Radio) Voters in Thailand go to the polls on Sunday in an election that the government hopes will end weeks of deadly protests. As election officials prepared to open more than 90,000 polling stations, Thailand's main opposition leader urged his supporters to surround the venues, but to do it peacefully and not to disrupt voting.

At least 10 people have died so far in several weeks of protests. Some 10,000 police officers are out on the streets, while authorities say they would consider closing polling stations if needed. The secretary-general of Thailand's Election Commission has said security is concentrated in Bangkok and the South, where the opposition is strongest.

Protestors want to prevent the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra returning to power, although her party is expected to win: policies such as subsidised healthcare have proved popular among Thailand's poor and the party swept the vote in the last elections.

The Prime Minister has said this snap election is all she can do within Thailand's constitution to meet the protestors' demands. They say they will continue disruptions, despite warnings now from some observers that the unrest is taking a toll on Thailand's economy. Tourist arrivals are down, and car-maker Toyota said this week the company might reconsider more than half a billion dollars in investment.

Listen to Alastair Wanklyn’s report: RealAudioMP3

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