South Thailand election reruns hit by violence

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Thailand's troubled southern province of Narathiwat saw the driver of an election official shot dead in the hours immediately leading up to today's by-elections. The attack, shortly after 6 a.m. local time (2300 UTC), saw the 41 year old driver instantly killed and a woman passenger hospitalised from injuries sustained in the attack.

Thailand's three southernmost provinces have been the centre of an insurgent campaign that has left over 1000 dead in the last two years. The predominantly Muslim region overwhelmingly rejected the Thai Rak Thai party candidates who stood unopposed in the April 2 general election forcing by-elections in an effort to fill the country's lower house of parliament before it is due to reconvene on May 2. Rules laid out in the country's constitution require that any candidate standing unopposed must receive votes from 20% of the eligible electorate to be elected. With the major opposition parties continuing their election boycott, these is some doubt if the full compliment of 500 MPs will be elected by the May 2 deadline.

According to the Thai News Agency, there are by-elections in 40 constituencies spread over 17 provinces, despite voting being compulsory, turnout is expected to be low as this is the third set of elections since the start of the month.