Thailand elections: Tempers flare in Bangkok as voting gets underway

Tempers flared as Thailand's general election got underway in Bangkok on Sunday morning after voters turned up to find polling stations left unmanned because of disruption by anti-government protesters.

The protesters, who had surrounded polling stations during advance voting on Jan 26, on Sunday switched to blockading district offices to stop the delivery of ballot papers to some of the over 6,000 polling stations in the capital.

Thwarted voters in Bangkok's Din Daeng district converged near its district office, where they were separated from protesters by riot police.

When voters tried to advance towards the protesters, one of the protesters fired a gun into the air, said eyewitnesses.

By noon, at least two district offices among Bangkok's 50 were blocked by protesters.

Elsewhere in Bangkok, voting went peacefully and smoothly. Caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as well as caretaker labour minister Chalerm Yubamrung managed to cast their votes without incident.

One of the election commissioners, Mr Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, however, did not succeed because there were no officials manning his polling station.

Bangkok remained tense on Sunday after armed clashes between pro- and anti-government groups in the capital's outskirts on Saturday evening left at least six people injured.

Protesters have spent the past three months trying to oust the caretaker administration of Ms Yingluck, which they allege is being controlled by her brother and self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The tycoon helmed Thailand until he was unseated by a military coup in 2006. As Ms Yingluck's Puea Thai party is expected win the polls - which are boycotted by the opposition Democrat party - protesters have spent the past few weeks sabotaging it.

Meanwhile, in Khon Kaen province in north-east Thailand, where voters are largely pro-Puea Thai, voting was carried out uneventfully.

One voter there, 61-year-old Noi Lartha said: "I could not miss voting this time because I wanted to send a message to the mobs in Bangkok that I don't agree with them."

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