In Lieu of Pending Polls, Elections Official Tones Down Travel Perks

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn briefs officials on Sept. 23, 2014, about lessons he learned from the 2014 Scottish independence referendum he traveled across the world to observe.

BANGKOK — With the likelihood of general elections this year waning, the nation’s top elections official launched a Facebook offensive to prove he’s busy and earning his salary.

Projecting austerity and accountability, Commissioner Somchai Sritthiyakorn posted five directives regarding upcountry travel on Monday afternoon to Facebook and tagged his subordinates to make the message clear.

“No luxury suite or pool villa … I won’t swim while staying,” Somchai wrote.

Others included purchasing reasonably priced local food and no alcohol. He also insisted on skipping the routine welcome banners put up for official visitors. Perhaps in a nod to a healthy work-life balance, he also said no work-related consultations should be done after 8:30pm. And finally, no souvenirs will be accepted.

“If I want anything, I will ask [you] to take me to purchase it myself,” he wrote.

Although the junta has long insisted elections would be held in 2017, those prospects have dimmed as the nation prepares funerary rites for King Bhumibol, and last-minute amendments to the new constitution were introduced at the request of his successor.

Reached for comment, Somchai said the directives were not formally mandated, but he tagged his colleagues so they could implement the guidelines accordingly.

He said the usual vinyl banners put up to welcome officials upcountry cost between 600 baht and 1,000 baht and are only used once. Instead, officials can be greeted as part of the ubiquitous presentations that come with such visits.

“Just use PowerPoint instead,” said the vocal commissioner, who is set to visit two flood-ravaged southern provinces.

Admitting he doesn’t know when junta-promised elections will take place, Somchai insisted however that his commission is keeping busy.

He said they’ve upgraded their technology, human resources and public relations. They’ve even come up with 18 Key Performance Indicators including a requirement that all provinces engage with civil society and contribute election observers.

For those unconvinced and entertaining the idea that the commission is currently being paid to do nothing, he offered this:

“Feel free to come and observe our work. We have work to do.”