February 02, 2014 00:00 By Pravit Rojanaphruk The Sunday
An international election watchdog will deploy some 20 observers for today's snap election, focusing mostly on the issues of people's participation and the right to vote without hindrance.
The team from the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel), a pan-Asia non-profit election observing organisation, is technically a “study mission” instead of a full election observation mission, said Anfrel project coordinator for Thailand, Pongsak Chanon.
He said this was due to the decision by the Election Commission (EC) and the caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra administration to go ahead with the election just a few days ago. The team is led by Anfrel’s Filipino chairperson, Damaso Magbual, Pongsak said.
Observers will come from nine countries, mostly from Asia and they will be posted in Bangkok and the surrounding provinces of Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Sakhon.
One observer each will probably be dispatched to Pattani, Nakhon Ratchasima and Chon Buri provinces. No one will be sent to the North.
“We want to find out if the election is free and fair, whether universal suffrage is respected,” said Pongsak, who added that he was concerned there may be violent clashes between the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and voters, particularly supporters of the ruling Pheu Thai party.
Anfrel won’t be writing a report, unlike in other elections, due to its inability to deploy a proper observer mission over a long period of time.
Pongsak said Thailand could continue to be in political limbo with a power vacuum if the EC fails to announce the election results promptly.
In a related development, the European Union will also not send any election observers but one election expert and one political expert have been assigned and they are now working on the ground, talking to various stakeholders.