BANGKOK, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Sunday's advance voting for the Feb. 2 election in Bangkok and southern Thailand was called off in the face of the prolonged anti-government protest.
Election officials were forced to call off the advance voting in all 50 districts of the capital as well as most southern constituencies as hordes of protesters gathered to deny entries to the advance polling units.
A brawl and fistfight briefly occurred between pro-government villagers and anti-government protesters at the polling unit in Ladkrabang district of the capital, police said. Though the police managed to stop the clash outside the polling unit, election officials decided to call off the advance voting for fears of possible violence.
Nevertheless, advance polling in all other regions of the country and the capital's outlying provinces was held without effectual protests.
According to the officials, those who have been barred by the protesters from casting their advance votes on Sunday may do so on the date which is yet to be set for general voting.
It remains to be seen whether or not the caretaker government headed by acting premier Yingluck Shinawatra will agree to reschedule the nationwide election from February 2 as suggested by the Election Commission and endorsed by the Constitutional Court.
Meanwhile, one leading guard for the protesters was killed and several others injured by gunshots at a polling unit in Bangna area, police said.
The shoot-out occurred after the protesters who had laid siege to Wat Sri-iam School where the advance polling was held had encountered a tense standoff with disgruntled local villagers who had intended to keep the polling intact.
The wounded protesters were rushed to hospitals including the guard, identified as Sutin Taratin, who was later pronounced dead. The gunmen have remained at large, the police said.
Acting Labor Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who concurrently heads the government's Center for Maintaining Peace and Order, said the Election Commission will be held responsible for Sunday's failures to hold advance voting in the capital and southern provinces.
"The Election Commission is definitely held responsible for the disruptions of the advance voting. Mr. Somchai (Srisuthiyakorn), you should not stay idly and laugh, because you are held responsible for that. The election is unarguably the responsibility of the Election Commission," he said, referring to one of the commissioners who is in charge of organizing the nationwide polls.
He said the polling agency had not asked for a police backup to add to those deployed at the polling units though the government had prepared to send more policemen to help maintain peace and order.
The number of the policemen attached to each of the polling units in the capital and southern provinces was not enough to deal with the anti-government protesters who had successfully stood in the way, according to the center's head, who added that he will not use force against them, however.
Yingluck earlier assured that the authorities will not use any violent means to cope with the protesters to avert possibilities of seeing the atrocities of 2010 repeated.
Nearly 100 people, mostly being Red Shirt demonstrators, were killed and about 2,000 others injured during army crackdowns at the orders of the now-defunct Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation chaired at the time by former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been orchestrating the sustained street protests since the last few months.