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Pressure mounts to allow foreign poll observers in Thailand

/ 04:27 PM December 18, 2018

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BANGKOK — Civil-society groups and political parties have called on foreign observers to monitor the general election scheduled for February to make sure it meets international standards for fairness and transparency.

The call in unison came in response to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai’s recent statement that foreign election observers were not needed and their presence would only suggest that the election might be problematical.

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Don said on Sunday that developed countries including Japan and Singapore did not have foreign observers monitoring their national elections.

Pongsak Chan-on, Thailand coordinator for the Asian Network of Free Elections, said yesterday that the presence of observers would enhance the credibility of the Thai election process.

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It was especially necessary if the ruling junta wanted to show its sincerity in allowing a free vote, he said.

“This election is the first to take place after a coup, so we need to be transparent about whether it’s free and fair,” Pongsak said. “Foreign observers would also help build confidence among the international community and investors. If they are to trust in Thailand, they need to see how the election unfolds.”

He said his network had already asked Thailand’s Election Commission to let its representations serve as observers during the polling in February. A response was awaited.

Chaturon Chaisang, a leader of the Thai Raksa Chart Party, tweeted yesterday that foreign observers were needed because Thailand was one of the few countries run by a military junta.

Free and fair?

“Many countries don’t need the observation because they are fully democratic,” he wrote. “But we are ruled by a military-led government and there are signs that the election will not be free and fair.”

Democrat Party deputy spokesperson Siripa Intravichien similarly said yesterday that no democratic countries should fear foreign election observers.

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She asked whether the junta had something to hide. If not, she said, it should welcome poll monitors from overseas.

Likewise, Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Kanchana Silpa-archa said yesterday that Thailand was a member of the international community and as such needed international recognition.

“The election should be accepted as much as possible and should have as few as possible problems,” she said. “I root for international organizations to observe the poll to make sure that we are well accepted.”

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma remained reluctant yesterday to endorse the involvement of foreign observers despite concerns that the junta might be interfering in the election process.

Although he admitted that inviting foreign monitors would be positive for the country’s image overseas, Jarungvith said his agency had to consider policy directives before making a decision to do so.

He added, however, that if contacted by foreign observers, the commission would consider their requests.

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TAGS: Asia, Elections, Politics, Thailand
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