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Thailand refuses to delay election despite violent protests

Thailand's government on Thursday rejected calls to postpone the upcoming February elections despite violent protests that have left a police officer dead and nearly 100 people injured. The Election Commission of Thailand [official website, in Thai] made the request [PDF, in Thai] over fears for the safety of candidates on the campaign trail after anti-government protesters, who want the government to be replaced with an unelected "people's council," attempted to break into a Bangkok stadium where candidates were being registered. The protesters were eventually dispersed with tear gas, but not before a police officer was shot and killed. Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana stated the government's position [BBC report] in a televised address, stating "The Election Commission said holding elections will bring violence but the government believes delaying an election will cause more violence."

Thailand's political system has been unstable since the 2006 military coup [AHRC backgrounder, PDF] by the Royal Thai Army against then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile]. The former prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] was formally charged [JURIST report] in December with the murder of two protesters killed during the 2010 military crackdown [TIME backgrounder]. In November current prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC profile] invoked a special security law [JURIST report], giving police in certain districts of Bangkok and surrounding areas additional powers to curb violent protests. Earlier that month protesters called for assistance [JURIST report] in overthrowing the government after Shinawatra survived a no confidence vote by parliament.

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