Thailand rejects foreign election observersBy Bangkok Pundit Mar 24, 2011 7:25PM UTC
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has previously stated he will dissolve parliament in the first week of July. Deputy PM and important government power-broker Suthep confirmed this the other day stating there will be an early July election.
Today, AFP reports:
THAILAND on Thursday dismissed suggestions that foreign observers were needed to monitor its upcoming election, with the deputy prime minister saying he does ‘not respect’ Westerners.
It would be ‘inappropriate’ to allow outside involvement in the poll, which is due in June or July and comes after deadly street protests last year, said Suthep Thaugsuban.
‘I don’t respect ‘farangs’. We do not have to surrender to them,‘ he said, using the Thai word for ‘Westerners’.
‘I am surprised that Red Shirts do not respect our country’s sovereignty… I don’t understand why they constantly call for foreign involvement, it is inappropriate,’ Mr Suthep told reporters.
BP: Actually, it is standard for there to be some non-Thai nationals to monitor elections in Thailand. The Thai Election Commission in 2001 stated:
An election is internationally regarded as the most important norm for democracy. The body that is responsible for electoral administration shall be an independent organisation like the Election Commission of Thailand. Such an organisation is a key element of a successful election because the ultimate goal of its fundamental mission is a free and fair election. Regardless the electoral management body, an election observation as well as an exchange programme for electoral professionals are increasingly necessary for the electoral administration. Not only the election observation contributes impetus for a free and fair election. It reflects willingness and real intention of the Electoral Management Body to show the world its function for a clean election. But also the exchange programme for electoral professionals is a forum for sharing electoral experiences that knowledge, information, and technology will benefit the electoral administration of each country.
BP: The EC even organized and facilitated for the observers to come to Thailand. IN 2005, the same. From an EC report in 2005:
Moreover, Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) has asked permission from the Election Commission of Thailand in order to bring two delegations of electoral observers consisting of the long-term electoral observers (1 month) and the short-term electoral observers (10 days) to learn and study the Thai electoral system as well as observe the general election of members of the House of Representatives. The delegations were from many nations, which were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Timor Leste, and United States of America. The long-term electoral observers would also be deployed in field in six provinces – Phitsanulok, Khonkaen, Buriram, Chonburi, Suratthani, and Nakhonsithammarat.
The programme was held during 4th-6th February 2005 and covered the visits both in Bangkok and in provinces. On day one (4th February 2005) the international observers went to the Office of the Election Commission of Thailand at Srijulsup Tower to make accreditation card and receive briefings on; Powers and Duties of the Election Commission of Thailand, Thailand’s Electoral System, Roles of the Election Commission in political party development, Thai Voting Machine, as well as visit the Call Centre. H.E. Mr. Virachai Naewboonnien, Election Commissioner, has come to meet and welcome all delegates to the Office of the Election Commission of Thailand and to the 2005 Thailand’s General Election Observation Programme. In the evening in the day one, the international observers were arranged to meet with leaders of the two major political parties in Thailand – Democrat Party and Thai Rak Thai Party – along with observing climate of the election campaigns of those parties
BP: So international observers with the leader of the Democrat Party? Cheese-eating surrender monkeys!
Of course, in 2007, there was much opposition to the prospect of international election observers – see here, here, and here. Interferring pesky foreigners. Why wouldn’t Suthep want them to observe? What is he afraid they will see?
Interestingly, the Asia Foundation surveyed (PDF – page 100) Thais on election observers last year. 62% found that election observers would make them a little more or lot more confident that the elections will be fair. The next question asked whether the observers should be Thais, foreigners, or whether both were equally acceptable? The result was Thai observers 42%, foreigners 6%, and both equally acceptable 50%.
BP: Now, it is not surprising that people would prefers Thais, but having both Thai and foreigner observers was acceptable to 50% of the population.