World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Thailand: Military Undermining Upcoming Elections

Thailand: Military Interference Undermines Upcoming Elections

Failure by Thailand's Electoral Commission to act on evidence of military interference in the upcoming Thai elections undermines prospects for Sunday's elections to be free and fair, Human Rights Watch said today.

Since General Sonthi Boonyaratglin overthrew the Thaksin administration in a bloodless coup on September 19, 2006, the military junta - now called the Council for National Security (CNS) - promised that the December 23 national elections would mark Thailand's democratic transition.

In May 2007, a Constitutional Tribunal dissolved Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party, and all 111 party executives (including Thaksin) were banned from politics for five years after being found guilty of electoral fraud.

"The courts dissolved the Thai Rak Thai Party for manipulating the electoral process, but now the junta is doing the same thing," said Elaine Pearson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch. "Military leaders are maneuvering to influence voting results and to prevent Thaksin's allies from returning to government."

Banned politicians cannot actively assist candidates or political parties in the upcoming elections. However, the People Power Party, which is widely seen as the Thai Rak Thai Party's reincarnation, is expected to garner wide support in the upcoming elections.

Allegations of a military plot against the People Power Party emerged when party leader Samak Sundaravej revealed copies of a CNS memo dated September 14 and other documents approved by General Sonthi. The CNS memo is now available on the internet. According to the memo, the CNS devised a contingency plan and ordered various operations to harass, block, and discredit the People Power Party and its supporters. The plan also included the mobilization of army-run television channels, radio stations, intelligence, and security agencies to present reports and circulate rumors discrediting the People Power Party and Thaksin.

"By endorsing a plan to discredit and harass political candidates, the junta has violated its legal obligation to remain neutral in the elections," said Pearson.

On November 29, a fact-finding subcommittee reporting to the Election Commission found that the junta had acted with bias ahead of the upcoming election. The next day, the CNS urgently requested that the Election Commission halt the investigation.

On December 12, the five election commissioners ruled 4-1 that although the CNS failed to be neutral, it did so under the grounds of safeguarding national security and therefore its actions had constitutional immunity. Without seeing any written evidence, the majority of commissioners accepted the CNS's explanation that since the plan in the memo was not implemented, no political party or individual was affected.

Contrary to the Election Commission ruling, People Power Party candidates have claimed harassment and intimidation by the military. For example, on December 18, three armed soldiers from the Internal Security Operation Command were found monitoring Sangtuan Pongmanee, a People Power Party candidate in Lamphun province. In Chiang Rai and Sisaket provinces, the People Power Party reported that surveillance by soldiers has put pressure on its candidates and activists.

Martial law is still in effect in 31 provinces, mostly Thaksin's political strongholds in the north and northeast of the country. Under martial law, the military can ban political gatherings, censor the media, and detain people without charge.

"Imposing martial law prevents political parties from competing on a level playing field," said Pearson. "Although Thaksin and his allies showed contempt for human rights and democracy, it is up to the Thai voters, not the military, to decide who should govern the country."


Latest World News | Top World News | World Digest | Archives | RSS

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>


Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news