Those who can't vote blame EC, PDRC

Voters who managed to cast an advance ballot on Sunday walked quickly away and happy, but those who were prevented from doing so angrily blamed the Election Commission (EC) and anti-government protesters for stripping them of their basic rights.

Muang Thong lakeside parking was used as the central polling station for residents of 77 provinces who had registered to vote in Nonthaburi in advance of the designated election day on Feb 2.

The huge space allowed for allocated tents for each region adjacent to each other. From 8am to 3pm, people came to cast their votes uninterrupted, unlike Pathum Thani or Bangkok that saw blockades and clashes.

The Nonthaburi central polling station saw 66,803 people from all provinces register for the advance vote. Officials believed the majority got there towards the end of the closing hour.

A 32-year-old man dragging a small amount of luggage and a knapsack walked determinedly towards the Chiang Mai tent. 

After voting, he told the Bangkok Post that he had just got off a plane from Udon Thani where he was on a field trip for his company and would fly back later in the day.

"I'm playing by the rules and regulations. Of course, people can boycott the election, but they should not block others from exercising their duties and rights. There are still many ways to express your disagreement with the government," said the Chiang Mai native.

He likened the blockades led by the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to preventing the owner of a house from entering his own premises.

"An election is the universal rule to decide democratically on issues of different needs among different people," he said.

At the parking lot, a group of admirers spotted Pattaya Thethong, 34, a boxia (wheel-chaired boxing) gold champion from the 2012 paralympics who just got out of a car with his wife around 9.30am.

After having his photos taken with them, he told the Bangkok Post that he wanted to exercise his rights the same way as he usually did.

"I would like people to respect the rules and perform their duty," said Mr Pattaya, before wheeling his chair to the Amnat Charoen tent.

A 42-year-old Yala native said quietly that he did not want to discuss politics or why some of his Muslim colleagues or Buddhists from the deep South did not want other people to cast votes.

"I just want to exercise my rights as I did last time. I've got a wife in Nonthaburi so I do not go back to Muang Yala to vote," he said, adding that not everyone would vote for the government.

"I don't want to see people quarrel, I would like to see Thais united," said the Yala native.

A 46-year-old woman from Nakhon Sawan said she would be receiving a degree at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University on Feb 2 so she wanted to cast an advance vote to fulfill her duty as a citizen.

"I don't want to see any violence and a deteriorating economy. I have no idea why the protesters blame only this government but not the previous ones," said the mature-age student.

At Wat Sangkaraja School, streams of angry and puzzled voters crossed the wooden bridge to the main road on Soi Onnut. Some of them said they would lodge a complaint at the Lat Krabang district office over the EC's failure to open the advance voting units for them.

At 10.40am, two hours after the PDRC protesters left the school, those who live in the neighbourhood of Lat Krabang were still pouring into the Wat Sangkharaja School polling stations only to find staff clearing the space and dismantling the units.

Many complained that the EC should have left some officials to explain to the people what they had to do next so their voting rights were not lost. Some complained about wasted time as they could not complete their mission to vote.

At the Lat Krabang District office, dozens of angry protesters used a loudspeaker to blast EC officials and the police for not doing enough to help voters to exercise their rights.

Many of them came from the school temple just a few kilometres away.

Acting district chief Chaowalit Songnawarat told the Bangkok Post that Prawit Sriwilai, chair of Lat Krabang advance voting station, had to call off the ballot at 8am as a protester had been hurt.

"About 400 protesters with eight buses and a few pick-up trucks had arrived around the polling station at the school temple long before 6am. EC officials had to ask police to escort the protesters outside the area as some casualties had occurred. They left the premises at around 10am," Mr Chaowalit said.

He said a dozen voters had filed the complaints at the Lad Krabang police station after being unable to cast their votes.

Lad Krabang had 35,770 people registered for advance voting, less than the 42,000-plus who registered for the previous election in 2011, said Mr Chaowalit, adding he also filed a complaint with the police for being unable to perform his duty in supporting the advance voting ballot.

The Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order said 42 polling units in 12 provinces, mostly in the South, out of 639 could not open for the advance voting ballot.

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