Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ukraine and Thailand - are both countries at their tipping points ? Thailand sees violence before February 2, 2104 Elections ....... Ukraine protests continue as US/EU engage in quasi - proxy war with Russia !


Ukraine President Yanukovich to return from sick leave
Ukraine President Yanukovich  to return from sick leave
(File Photo)

The president of Ukraine feels well and his health is satisfactory, the website quoted a senior state medical official, Oleksandr Orda, as saying.

World Bulletin / News Desk
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich will return to work on Monday, four days after going on sick leave, according to a statement posted on the presidential website on Sunday.
"After undergoing required treatment, the president of Ukraine feels well and his health is satisfactory," the website quoted a senior state medical official, Oleksandr Orda, as saying. Yanukovich, who faces a serious crisis and widespread opposition protests, announced on Thursday that he was taking sick leave.

Kerry: We stand with the people of Ukraine

February 1, 2014 8:37AM ET Updated 2:18PM ET
Secretary of State meets with Ukranian opposition, as Russian minister rails against West for meddling in affairs
John Kerry


Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Germany on Feb, 1, 2014.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that the United States and European Union support the people of Ukraine in their pursuit of stronger ties with the West, and that they should not be coerced into accepting their future lay with one country – a reference to President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to renege on a cooperation deal with the EU under pressure from Russia.
The statement came as Kerry prepared to meet Ukrainian opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Petro Poroschenko on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Germany, the same day.
The people of Ukraine are "fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations", he said.
"They have decided that means their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced. The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight."
During the meeting, Kerry "reiterated the United States' support for the democratic, European aspirations of the Ukrainian people, and the efforts of opposition leaders to speak out to defend democracy and choice for the people of Ukraine," according to a State Department official.
"He encouraged the opposition to remain united and peaceful and to continue discussions with the government."
The meeting and public show of support for the opposition was the latest from Western powers backing protesters, who have been camped in Kiev’s Maidan (Independence) Square since Yanukovich backtracked on a trade cooperation deal with the EU, and instead accepted a $15-billion loan package from Russia, two months ago.
However, Ukrainian opposition leaders urged U.S. and EU leaders on Friday to go beyond vocal support for their fight and demand a halt to violence they blame on Yanukovich.
"What we need is not just declarations but a very clear action plan – how to fix the problem and fix the violence, how to investigate all these killings and abductions and tortures," Yatsenyuk said.
The uncompromising standoff, which turned violent after Yanukovich passed a short-lived law barring protests in early January, prompted a rare intervention from the military on Friday.
The Defense Ministry urged the president, as commander in chief, to move swiftly and within the law to end the crisis.
"The military and the Ukrainian armed forces ... called on the supreme commander to take immediate steps, within the framework of the law, to stabilize the situation in the country and reach agreement with society," it said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Ukraine's first post-Soviet president, Leonid Kravchuk, warned that the country was on the brink of "civil war."
The military has emphasized its unwillingness to take sides throughout the unrest and seems concerned not to be drawn in. 
In covering Friday's statement, a Defense Ministry news website quoted one retired admiral, Serhiy Rybak, recalling Ukrainian troops' roles in peacekeeping after civil wars abroad: "No political ambition is worth a drop of human blood," he said.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday in a statement on Twitter that he was "very concerned by attempts to involve the military in the crisis" and added that the "military must remain neutral,” but said he was encouraged by the eventual repeal of the anti-protest law.

Double standards

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday accused EU leaders of interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, helping stoke violent anti-government protests and displaying double standards.
"Why are many prominent EU politicians actually encouraging such actions although back home they are quick to severely punish any violations of the law?" he said.
"What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?" Lavrov said in response to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who earlier said Ukraine's future lay in Europe.
The EU and Russia have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since Yanukovich ditched an EU association accord in November under pressure from a Moscow seen to be trying to bring its former Soviet satellite back into its sphere of influence.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Munich on Saturday, Leonid Kozhara, the Ukrainian foreign minister, called on Ukranians to distance themselves from the opposition, saying there was a "big misunderstanding between the government and the opposition."
"For the first time in our country, we can see extremist groups," he said.
He disputed claims that an opposition activist, Dmytro Bulatov, had been tortured.
Bulatov, who disappeared a week ago during widespread protests in and around the capital Kiev, resurfaced on Friday with his face badly beaten and with wounds to his hands, saying his abductors tortured and "crucified" him. Police have opened an investigation into the incident.
"Physically, this man is in good condition, and the only thing he has is a scratch on one of his cheeks," Kozhara said.
But Bulatov's lawyer, Ruslan Radetski, told Al Jazeera's Tamila Varshalomidze in Kiev, that he was in "intensive care unit after a surgery."
"He is in a tough condition in intensive care after a surgery. He was kidnapped, beaten up and tortured. The doctors haven't said yet when he will be able to leave the hospital, treatment is under way."

Opposition warns Ukraine army could move against protesters

Saturday 01 February 2014 11.01
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Ukrainian opposition fears army could be drafted in to end standoff
Ukrainian opposition fears army could be drafted in to end standoff
Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk has warned that the army could be used to crush protests against the country's president.
He told Germany's president and foreign minister and the EU's foreign affairs chief it was "very likely" that Ukrainian authorities would "resort to a use of force scenario" including with the involvement of the army.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US and the EU support the people of Ukraine as they seek a stronger democracy.
The people of Ukraine "are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realise their aspirations”, he said at the Munich Security Conference.
“They have decided that means their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced.
"The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight," he said.

Ukraine secret service probes opposition for 'attempted coup'

Ukraine's secret service says it is investigating what it calls an attempted coup in connection with opposition protests that have swept the country. Protesters have demanded that President Viktor Yanukovych step down.
Kiew Ukraine Protest Unruhen
In a televised announcement late on Friday, a member of Ukraine's SBU secret service, Maxim Lenko, said evidence gathered in a December raid on the offices of the opposition Fatherland party indicated that the opposition had instigated the protests, which led to the resignation of the prime minister and cabinet earlier in the week.
The news agendy Interfax quoted Lenko as claiming that the opposition had also provoked police violence against the demonstrators.
Four people were killed when the protests turned violent last weekend, three of which were victims of gunshot wounds.
The purported evidence apparently came from computers found in the raid on the Fatherland party. Ukraine's jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, is a member of that party.
According to unconfirmed reports, Tymoshenko's Fatherland party described the announcement as a provocation.
On television, Lenko said the anti-government protests had been "pre-planned," including "the use of force against protesters… to undermine the authority of the president," Viktor Yanukovych.
Ashton 'appalled' by apparent torture
The allegation came after opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov, who went missing more than a week ago, reappeared Thursday night, saying he was tortured by abductors who cut off his ear and drove nails through his hands before dumping him in a forest.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said she was "appalled" by the apparent torture inflicted on Bulatov while Amnesty International said the "barbaric" act should be immediately investigated.
Ukrainian protest movement leaders have claimed that abuse and beatings of activists have been widespread.
President Viktor Yanukovych, who has been on sick leave since Thursday, repealed draconian anti-protest laws passed in January on Friday.
Two months of anti-government protest erupted in November when the president backed out of a key pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow.
On Friday, he also signed an amnesty bill for jailed opposition activists, but it will only take effect if protesters vacate the public buildings they have occupied within 15 days.

US and EU slug it out with Russia over Ukraine


A man stands outside a protest camp in Kiev's Independence Square on February 1, 2014
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MUNICH (Germany) (AFP) - The United States and EU traded unusually sharp barbs with Russia Saturday over Ukraine's future amid concerns of possible military intervention to end anti-government protests.
Neither side pulled any punches, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying what happens in Ukraine is crucial for Europe's future while his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov blasted wilful and two-faced Western interference.
"Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine," Kerry told political, diplomatic and military leaders at the Munich Security Conference.
"The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight," said Kerry who was due later Saturday to meet Ukrainian opposition leaders including former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko in Munich.
Kerry, speaking with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel alongside, said the "vast majority of Ukrainians want to live freely in a safe, prosperous country".
"They are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realise their aspirations -- and they have decided that means their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced."
Earlier Saturday, the party of opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he had warned European officials it was "very likely" Kiev would "resort to a use of force scenario, including with the involvement of the Ukranian army".
The Ukrainian defence ministry, which previously said it would not interfere in the crisis, warned also that protesters' seizure of government buildings was unacceptable and that "further escalation of the confrontation threatens the country's territorial integrity".
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told another panel that the EU wanted good relations with Russia, that it was an essential element in Europe's peace and prosperity but that the Ukrainian people had to have the right to choose their own future, a future with Europe.
The West and Russia have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych ditched an EU association accord in November under pressure from a Moscow trying to bring its former Soviet satellite back into the fold.
Yanukovych's decision sparked massive anti-government rallies, which turned increasingly violent last month after he rushed through a series of curbs on protests.
The move prompted an escalation of the violence on the streets and the president then cancelled them and accepted the resignation of the government.
Kerry's planned meeting with Ukraine opposition may have explained the unequivocally harsh remarks by Lavrov who accused the West of stoking the violence in Kiev in a clear example of double standards.
"Why are many prominent EU politicians actually encouraging such actions although back home they are quick to severely punish any violations of the law?" Lavrov told the conference.
"What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?" he asked, speaking at the same panel as Van Rompuy.
"Why don't we hear condemnation of those who seize and hold government buildings, attack the police, torture police, use racist and anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans?" Lavrov said.
Spheres of influence
EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton is due to visit Kiev again next week, having previously met the government and opposition figures several times there to call for peaceful dialogue.
Other prominent EU, US and international figures have also been frequent visitors to Kiev, drawing a strong government and Russian response although Lavrov's remarks Saturday were unusually blunt in comparison.
Describing the situation in Ukraine as raising "fundamental questions" about EU-Russia relations, he said that in this case "a choice is being imposed."
Europe's future should "not be about new spheres of influence... it should be about how all countries" cooperate in the interest of all, he said.
For his part, Kerry said "Russia and other countries should not view the European integration of their neighbours as a zero-sum game".
"The lesson of the last half-century is that we can accomplish much more when the United States, Russia and Europe work together," he added.


Thai protesters block voting in chaotic election

BANGKOK - Agence France-Presse

 A frustrated Thai voter (C) holds her national identification card as she shouts at police blocking the entrance to a polling station as voting was cancelled after anti-government protesters prevented the delivery of election material in downtown Bangkok on February 2, 2014. AFP Photo
A frustrated Thai voter (C) holds her national identification card as she shouts at police blocking the entrance to a polling station as voting was cancelled after anti-government protesters prevented the delivery of election material in downtown Bangkok on February 2, 2014. AFP Photo
Opposition protesters prevented voting at thousands of polling stations in Thailand on Sunday, triggering angry scenes in the capital over an election that plunged the strife-racked kingdom into political limbo.

Despite weeks of mass street demonstrations aimed at forcing her from office, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was widely expected to extend her billionaire family's decade-long winning streak at the ballot box.

But the disruption to voting means that the results are not expected for weeks at least, and there will not be enough MPs to convene parliament and appoint a government until new elections are held in the problem areas.

The main opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the vote, said it was gathering evidence to seek an annulment of the election on legal technicalities.

An angry crowd gathered outside one voting centre in the Bangkok district of Din Daeng, holding their ID cards in the air and chanting "Vote! Vote!" before storming inside.

"I came to vote, but they have denied my rights," said Praneet Tabtimtong, 57, clutching a large wooden club. "I am begging them to let me vote." Disruption by protesters to ballot paper deliveries was a major cause of the problems. Few believe the polls will end the political turmoil that has plagued the kingdom since Yingluck's elder brother Thaksin was ousted as premier in a military coup in 2006.

The premier's opponents say she is a mere puppet for the ousted leader, a hugely controversial figure who lives in Dubai to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.

Experts say a protracted period of political uncertainty and possible street violence could set the scene for a military or judicial coup. The army chief has repeatedly refused to rule out seizing power, while Yingluck is under investigation by an anti-corruption panel.

"The most likely scenario is that somehow the Democrats will prevail in getting the election annulled for some reason," said Thailand-based author and scholar David Streckfuss.

About 10,000 out of nearly 94,000 polling stations were unable to open, according to the Election Commission, affecting millions of people, although it was unclear how many had planned to vote.

Even if Yingluck wins she will remain in a caretaker role with limited power over government policy until elections are held in enough constituencies to have a quorum in parliament.

"Normally even if one polling station is blocked we cannot announce the result," said Election Commission member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. "As long as there are protests and no negotiation, then parliament cannot open." Tensions were running high after a dramatic gun battle between rival protesters on the streets of the capital on the eve of the election that left at least seven people wounded. But there were no reports of serious violence on election day by the time polls closed.

At least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes, grenade attacks and drive-by shootings since the opposition rallies began, with victims on both sides.

The demonstrators want Yingluck to step down and make way for an unelected "people's council" to oversee reforms to tackle corruption and alleged vote-buying.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, accused the protesters of "thuggery and intimidation".

But in the government's heartland in north and northeast Thailand, as well as some areas of the capital, voting went ahead without major disruption in a boost to Yingluck's hopes of re-election.

"I did my duty today as I came to vote -- it's my right," said Pui, 43, who cast his ballot at a polling station in Bangkok's historic district where a handful of police watched over voters.

Authorities said roughly 130,000 police were deployed around the country for the vote, but with tens of thousands of polling stations, many had only a light security presence.

The recent violence is the worst political bloodshed in the kingdom since 2010 when protests by pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" left more than 90 dead and nearly 1,900 injured in clashes and a military crackdown.

The elite-backed opposition Democrat Party -- which has not won an elected majority in around two decades -- refused to take part in the vote, throwing its support behind the anti-government protests.

The party said Sunday that it was preparing to mount a legal challenge to the vote.

"We are compiling evidence and information to ask the court to nullify this election," said deputy leader Ongart Klampaiboon.

The protesters have vowed to keep up their fight to topple Yingluck, whatever the outcome of the polls.

"The winners will not represent the Thai people," rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban, an opposition heavyweight, told supporters Sunday. "The winners must be Thaksin slaves."

Thailand holds national vote amid tension, picketed polls

February 1, 2014 11:40PM ET
Sunday's election underway despite an attack by gunmen a day earlier on protesters that wounded seven

Thai elections

Thai people who can't go cast their votes in their district show their national identification card and shout slogans as Thai police officers (not seen) secure and block a street leading to a polling station occupied by Thai anti-government protesters (not seen) in Bangkok on Feb. 2, 2014.
2014 AFP
Thailand went to the polls under heavy security Sunday in an election that could push the divided country deeper into political turmoil and leave the winner paralyzed for months by street protests, legal challenges, and legislative limbo.
Voting started peacefully in most areas a day after seven people were wounded by gunshots andexplosions during a clash between supporters and opponents of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a north Bangkok stronghold of her Puea Thai Party.
Police said they would deploy 100,000 officers nationwide for the polls, and the army is stationing 5,000 soldiers around Bangkok to tighten security, the Bangkok Post reported. More than 47 million are registered to cast their ballots.
Voting was called off in some areas and several polling stations were unable to open because of pressure by anti-government protesters. Polling outside the capital and the south was unaffected.
In the Bangkok suburb of Din Daeng, a Yingluck stronghold, polls were at risk of being cancelled.
Anti-government protesters reportedly blocked a government building, where ballot boxes are housed, and prevented the distribution of ballots.     
The main opposition Democrat Party is boycotting the poll and the country’s electoral commission has already voiced concerns that it would result in too few legitimately elected MPs to form a parliamentary quorum.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand at Human Rights Watch, said fear remains that there could be confrontation between pro- and anti-election forces during the voting.
"We are urging all sides to reject violence," he said.
The usual campaign billboards, glossy posters and pre-election buzz have been notably absent, as will be millions of voters fearful of violence or bent on rejecting a ballot bound to re-elect the political juggernaut controlled by Yingluck's billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin, 64, remains a divisive figure in Thailand, but his parties have won every poll since 2001. His opponents say he is a corrupt crony capitalist who rules by proxy from self-exile in Dubai.
"We're not blocking the election. We're postponing it," said Nipon Kaewsook, 42, one of the hundreds of protesters blocking Ratchathewi District Office in central Bangkok to prevent the distribution of dozens of ballot boxes.
"We still need an election, but we need reform first," added Nipon, an English teacher from Phattalung in southern Thailand.
Protesters shouted "Yingluck get out" and "Thaksin go to jail" They took celebratory selfies in front of the ballot boxes, placed in a car park at the back of the building.

Unfilled parliamentary seats

Victory celebrations for Yingluck would probably be muted. With parliamentary seats unable to be filled, she could find herself on shaky ground, exposed to legal attacks and unable to pass bills and budgets crucial to reviving a stuttering economy.
Yingluck last week refused to postpone the election, even though a fifth of those registered for advance voting were unable to cast ballots after protesters blocked polling stations in 49 of 50 Bangkok districts as part of a "shutdown" of key intersections. In 28 southern constituencies, no votes will be cast because no candidates could sign up.
Results are likely to be delayed due to an anticipated deluge of complaints and challenges to the results.
"There's been a lot of obstruction, so much, every single step of the way," commission secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong told Reuters.
"We don't want this election to be a bloody election. We can get every single agency involved to make this election happen, but if there's bloodshed, what's the point?"
Anti-government demonstrators say Thaksin subverted Thailand's fragile democracy by entrenching money politics and using taxpayers' money for generous subsidies, cheap healthcare and easy loans that have bought him loyalty from millions of working-class Thai voters in the north and northeast.
With broad support from Bangkok's middle class and tacit backing of the royalist establishment, old-money elite and military, the protesters reject the election and want to suspend democracy, replacing it with an appointed 'people's council' to reform politics and erode Thaksin's influence.
The latest round of tumult in the eight-year political conflict erupted in November and underscored Thaksin's central role in the intractable struggle, both as hero and villain.
Yingluck was largely tolerated by Thaksin's opponents but her party miscalculated when it tried to introduce a blanket amnesty that would have nullified a graft conviction against Thaksin and allowed him to return home.
Many Thais see history repeating itself after a cycle of elections, protests and military or judicial interventions that have polarized the country and angered Thaksin's "red shirt" supporters, who held crippling blockades in 2010 and have vowed to defend his sister from any overthrow attempt.
Thailand's military has remained neutral so far, but the judiciary has taken on an unusually large number of cases in the past two months in response to complaints against Yingluck and Puea Thai that could result in the party's dissolution and lengthy bans for its top politicians.
There is also a chance the election could be annulled, as it was in 2006, over a technicality. The Election Commission is expecting lawsuits to be filed demanding the election be voided.
The main opposition Democrat Party is boycotting the poll and the commission has already voiced concerns that it would result in too few legitimately elected MPs to form a parliamentary quorum.
With no quorum to re-elect a prime minister, it looks likely Yingluck could be a caretaker premier for months. Even with a fresh mandate, a stalemate is almost certain, giving her opponents more time to intensify their campaign against her and for legal challenges to be lodged.

Explosions And Heavy Gunfire In Bangkok Ahead Of Elections

Tyler Durden's picture

17 years ago, the first major Emerging Market crisis started in Thailand, leading to the Russian default and the collapse of LTCM ushering in the era of Too Big To Fail. This time, all the world needed for the second major EM crisis, was for Ben Bernanke to announce he is giving global central planning a break (because one can be certain the Untaper will be right back on the agenda as soon as the S&P enters a bear market). Ironically, Thailand has largely been insulated from the EM decimation, even through it is now in as bad a political shape as it ever was, and one day ahead of the February 2 general elections things are getting from bad to worse. AFP reports that explosions and heavy gunfire rattled Bangkok Saturday as pro- and anti-government protesters clashed on the eve of controversial Thai elections seen as unlikely to end a cycle of violence in the kingdom after months of opposition rallies.
So far the market has discounted the political tensions' impact on the economy, but that may change soon, especially if tomorrow's election fails to stabilize the unstable political situation. "Tensions are high in the capital ahead of snap elections on Sunday, which opposition demonstrators have vowed to block as they seek to prevent the likely re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra."
Tensions reached a breaking point hours ago when bystanders, security personnel and journalists raced to take cover in a shopping mall after a masked gunman man began spraying bullets from an assault rifle during confrontations between government supporters and opposition demonstrators, according to an AFP reporter.
At least six people were injured as a busy intersection in a northern suburb of the capital was turned into a battle zone with volleys of sustained gunfire ricocheting off buildings for over an hour in a daylight attack that sent shockwaves across the city.

Bangkok has been rocked by weeks of sometimes bloody political violence during rallies by a loose coalition opposed to Yingluck and the enduring influence of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra -- a former premier ousted by the military in 2006.

Saturday's clashes happened after demonstrators blocking ballot boxes from being delivered from the Lak Si district office -- one of 50 in the capital -- were confronted by a group of some 200 government supporters, some armed with sticks and metal bars. At least two explosions were heard in the area before the firing began.

"The clash point is the intersection, gun shots seemed to be fired from both sides," said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, who was at the scene. He said a reporter was among the injured.

The firing started after talks between the rival groups broke down in the area, which is roughly split between Yingluck's supporters and those backing the opposition protests, Sunai added.

"This is what we forecast for tomorrow. Tensions could flair up into violence very easily," he told AFP, adding that protesters had been evacuated and tensions appeared to have calmed after nightfall. At least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes, grenade attacks and drive-by shootings since the opposition rallies began three months ago.

The unrest is the latest round of political instability to hit Thailand since royalist generals ousted Thaksin seven years ago, unleashing a cycle of sporadically-violent street protests.
If there is any silver lining about the current cycle of violence is that so far it has not reached the proportions of the 2010 clashes when a military crackdown on pro-Thaksin Red Shirts demonstrating against the previous government left more than 90 people dead and nearly 1,900 injured.
The backdrop to the protests is a years-long political struggle pitting the kingdom's royalist establishment -- backed by the courts and the military -- against Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-politician. The current protesters are mainly made up of Thaksin's foes in the Bangkok middle classes and southerners, backed by factions in the elite.

They are demanding Yingluck's elected government step down to make way for an unelected "people's council" that would oversee loosely defined reforms to tackle corruption and alleged vote-buying.

"The government is corrupt. If we let the vote go on then they will come back, so we should not hold the election," said opposition protester Sirames, who gave only one name, at the Lak Si office before the violence broke out.

Yingluck's opponents say she is a puppet for her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in Dubai to avoid a prison term for graft. Around 130,000 police are set to protect 93,000 polling stations across the country on Sunday.

Yingluck is likely to win the poll, helped by strong support in Thaksin's north and northeastern heartlands.

But uncertainty hangs over the results, with unrest threatening polling and several constituencies without a candidate. Authorities on Saturday said protesters were also blocking ballot boxes being delivered to polling stations across southern Thailand -- the stronghold of the opposition Democrat Party.
While the probability of a deadly escalation tomorrow is slim - for now - the last thing the EMs need at this point is the flaring of risk at yet another key focal point, especially one that has so much deja vu emotional significance for market participants. We will keep an eye on Thailand over the next 24 hours and update as needed.