Election Observers Denied Funding, Accreditation

Three years before he would overthrow the elected government, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha cast his ballot on July 3, 2011, the last time elections were successfully held.
Three years before he would overthrow the elected government, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha cast his ballot on July 3, 2011, the last time elections were successfully held.

BANGKOK — An independent, domestic poll monitor says it will deploy more than 1,000 observers for the March 24 election – without any official support.

Laddawan Tantivitayapitak of the People’s Network for Elections complained Friday that the Election Commission waited until yesterday – 10 days before polls open – to lay out the conditions for election monitors.

“There was no explanation,” said Laddawan on why things were so late. “They probably do not want scrutiny from the people.”

Read: Poll Observers Give ‘F’ Grade to Election Commission

The delay means that the group, known as P-Net, will be denied the commission’s funding for poll observers. It’s the latest accusation to paint the commission as a flawed arbiter bent to political manipulation in the kingdom’s first election after five years of military rule.

The body’s deputy leader, Metha Silapun, said Laddawan’s complaint was invalid, as the new election laws passed by the junta-appointed assembly last year eliminated funding and accreditation for election observers.

“We won’t issue accreditation under the new law. They can still do what they do, but they won’t be getting money from the EC. As it is, the EC doesn’t have enough money,” Metha said by phone.

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Laddawan said local observers used to get a 350 baht per diem on Election Day. She added that P-NET would proceed without support and enlist volunteers in the 63 provinces where they operate.

Though vote-buying still happens in disadvantaged rural and urban communities, Laddawan said voters are also as likely to vote on party policies, making the practice less effective and reliable for both sides of the political divide.

“Although money is still being paid, the expectation is less reliable,” she said. “The competition is now on policies.”

Another concern raised by Laddawan is that the ministry officials and security forces overseeing the vote may be impartial.

She cited rumors that soldiers in some parts of the Deep South have been ordered to vote a certain way.

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