EU wants to send 200 election observers

The European Union wants to send a mission of more than 200 people to observe the general election in Thailand next year, according to Election Commission president Ittiporn Boonpracong.

The EC will start considering the request in two weeks as it is now busy redrawing constituencies, he said.

“Initially, we’ll stick to what we’ve always done. If they come to observe constructively, comply with related laws and regulations and do not cause problems in the process, there’s no reason to deny their request,” he said.

However, a source told the Bangkok Post it was different this time because the EU wanted Thailand to first send them an invitation to observe the polls.

“When you ask to come, it should be constructive," says EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

Mr Ittiporn said the EC would seek opinions on the issue, especially from the Foreign Ministry, which may have kept records of the people who used to observe Thai elections and later raised issues affecting foreign relations.

Since 2003, the EC has allowed foreign observers, including NGOs, under the visitor programme under which they must comply with Thai laws and conditions. Such terms include the need to seek prior permission before going to the three restive southernmost provinces and refraining from interfering with the EC’s operations, Mr Ittiporn said. The EU has since sent missions to Thailand in two elections.

“If they meet these requirements, we don’t have any problem. But if they want more than this, we need to seek opinions of related agencies such as the Foreign Ministry or even the government first before making the decision,” said Mr Ittiporn, a former ambassador to the Netherlands.

In the past, the EU sent the Election Expert Mission (EEM) but this time they want to come as the Election Observation Mission (EOM), which is of a much larger scale, more complicated and unlikely to fit with Thailand’s visitor programme.

Asked for his views on Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai’s comments against such visits earlier, Mr Ittiporn said what Mr Don said about the conditions was right.

“When you ask to come, it should be constructive, which involves complying with laws and making constructive recommendations. They should not hold press conferences later to find faults with our polls or act like a referee on politics of another country,” Mr Ittiporn said.

Mr Don commented last week foreign observers should not be allowed to Thailand.

“Elections are an internal affair of a country and can be held without foreign observers. The most important observers are its people. Foreign observers come only to a few countries with problems and I don’t think we fall into that category. I don’t want to see our country do that, it’s not a ‘good start’, it’s inauspicious….Thailand should be able to hold an election successfully on its own,” Mr Don had said.

The source added in addition to the increasing number of observers compared to a team of 4-5 people earlier, the EU wants the EC to send it an invitation letter, which was suspicious.

“In the past, the EU observed an election in Kenya as EOM. At first, it simply reported observations but later it issued a report criticising the polls, without taking into consideration the fact that it was the first election after a massacre of 3,000 people six years earlier. In that context, the election should have been considered a feat,” the source said. 

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