In Reversal, Foreign Poll Monitors May Be Allowed For February Vote

Former minister Suwat Liptapanlop, at left, campaigns for the Chart Pattana Party this past Saturday in Korat.
Former minister Suwat Liptapanlop, at left, campaigns for the Chart Pattana Party this past Saturday in Korat.

BANGKOK — Thailand’s top election official said they are prepared to invite foreign observers in to monitor the February poll.

The announcement Wednesday by Election Commission chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong came after a growing chorus of calls by politicians and activists for professional international observers to ensure the vote is free and fair. Ittiporn noted that previous election commissioners have allowed foreign observers in since 2003 and said his colleagues on the commission agreed it was allowable in principle.

Nothing is final at this point and many others remain opposed to allowing monitors in, such as Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, who said he opposes the deployment of foreign monitors. Also Wednesday, junta deputy leader Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also a deputy prime minister, expressed opposition to the idea.

Read: Regime Fears Embarrassment by Foreign Poll Monitors: Veteran Thai Observer

“On this matter, doesn’t Thailand have any related organizations, so we must have foreigners? … Elections in other countries do not allow, do not have foreign organizations observing,” Prawit said, despite poll external monitors being standard to credible elections worldwide.

Ittiporn pointed out that the European Union has yet to formally request its involvement. Representatives of the EU delegation have repeatedly said they need a formal invitation to do so.

The last time Thais went to the polls, for the 2017 constitutional referendum, no monitors were allowed, even those from domestic organizations.

Pongsak Chanon, who coordinates for the Asian Network for Free Elections in Thailand, said they were still awaiting confirmation from the commission as of Thursday morning that their request to field at least 70 Asian observers will be granted.