Thai authorities Thursday warned there was a risk of violence breaking out on election day January 6, and said some 133,500 police would be mobilised to protect polling stations.
"We have allocated 133,500 police to guard polling stations and the more than 200,000 police will be involved in any other duties," said police spokesman Lieutenant General Pongsapat Pongchareon.
Under strict new voting rules to be implemented for the first time next year, all ballot boxes will be taken to central counting stations and none will be opened before every ballot from the province has arrived.
By mixing up votes from different villages, it is hoped the new measures will prevent the practice of vote-buying which is entrenched in Thai politics.
Pongsapat said police were concerned that trouble could flare up after the polling stations were closed mid-afternoon on January 6.
"The police force fears that there may be various forms of violence including snatching of ballot boxes and setting fire to polling stations, which has happened before."
Extra police would be assigned to guard each of the 400 ballot counting centers set up around the country, he said.
Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai also expressed concern over the prospect of violence on voting day and said local election commissioners could request security reinforcements in case of any incident.
"Only election commission members are allowed inside the hall where the votes are being counted but they can coordinate with police if there is any unrest," he said.
The elections will be the first held in Thailand under the anti-corruption constitution which was adopted in 1997.
Under the new system, there will be 500 members of parliament -- 400 elected from constitutions and 100 from a party list system.
The coalition led by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai's Democrats is tipped to be toppled by the fledgling Thak Rai Thai party led by telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra -- BANGKOK (AFP)
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