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Risk of delay in Thai election sparks downtown Bangkok protest
[BANGKOK] Demonstrators gathered for the second time in three days in downtown Bangkok to protest against the possibility of another delay in Thailand's general election schedule.
Postings on Twitter on Tuesday showed dozens of people hoisting placards and calling on the junta to stick to a plan for a poll on Feb 24, after more than four years of military rule. Such protests were banned until the government in December lifted restrictions on political gatherings ahead of the expected vote.
Since then, officials have signalled the poll date may have to be moved to avoid a clash with preparations for the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in May. On New Year's Day, the Bureau of the Royal Household said that the coronation ceremony will be held on May 4-6.
Earlier Tuesday, local media reported a government department had instructed officials to halt preparations for the election until clarity on the poll date emerges.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan Ocha, the former army chief who led the coup in May 2014, said in his weekly briefing Tuesday the election date would become clearer once the relevant royal decree is issued.
The timeline for a vote has been repeatedly pushed back by the military government.
"Since there's been a lack of clarity on the timeline of the election, many people have come out to show their discontent, whether through social media or by organising, which shows that Thais are ready for an election," tycoon-turned-politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the anti-junta Future Forward party, said in a statement.
Thailand has a volatile history of elections followed by unrest and coups. While Tuesday's protest and another held on Sunday appeared small compared to the many thousands who took the streets before the coup, concerns are growing about rising political risk in South-east Asia's second-largest economy.