Today an estimated 2.3 million people visited polling stations for advance voting in Thailand’s national elections. Today was for the people who had registered in advance to say that they were unable to vote on the 3rd July 2011. Polling stations officially opened at 8 a.m. this morning but people were turning up as early as 7 a.m. This is because advance voting doesn’t have so many polling stations.
In Samut Prakan, there were polling stations at each of the District offices for local people. Then there were two massive sites for people who come from other provinces but are unable to return home next weekend to vote. At the Thai Navy Academy, where I took these pictures, people from most provinces in the Northeast of Thailand, except Surin and Sisaket, came to cast their vote. For the rest of the country, the polling station was at Tesco Lotus in Bang Pu.
From what I heard, there were over 35,000 people, mainly Thai migrant workers, who came to vote at the navy academy. Due to the large numbers there was a constant traffic jam on Sukhumwit Road nearly all day until the voting closed at 3 p.m. When people arrived they had a to consult a large map which told them which area to report to. There was basically one tent for each of the provinces. At some of the more popular provinces people had to queue up for an hour in the sun.
After registering, people then cast their vote in secret. Their ballot papers were then put in an envelope which was sealed and signed. They then put them in the ballot box which, as you can see, was already sealed. At each tent there were at least two policemen watching what was going on. They also seemed to be some independent observers who were making a note of the number of people who were voting.
After the polling stations closed, these ballot boxes had to be delivered to Thailand Post under guard. They would then be sent to their relevant province by EMS. For the votes made by the local people, their ballot boxes will be kept under lock and key at the district offices until the day of the national elections on 3rd July. I am told they would also be monitored by CCTV and also possibly independent observers.
I don’t have the final figures yet for the total number of people who came out for advance voting. Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Suthipol Thaweechaikarn is seen here visiting the polling station at the navy academy in Samut Prakan. He later went to inspect the polling station at Bang Pu. While I was taking this picture, a number of people came up to him to say that their names were not on the register. There was also a lot of confusion about where to go to vote as the procedure had changed from last time.