A watchdog to bite voters
A few days ago the UDD announced that it intends to monitor the upcoming Bangkok gubernatorial poll. According to chairwoman Thida, 10,000 red-shirt "volunteers" will fan out across the city's polling stations to "prevent any possible fraud".
To Bangkok's residents, however, the idea of so many red shirts congregating near or at polling booths is not likely to sound reassuring. Considering the UDD's track record of threats and violence, they will be forgiven for viewing this as yet another intimidation tactic.
And surely there are serious questions of both the legality and ethics of having the UDD monitoring any election. The organisation and its members are neither impartial nor unbiased. They openly support one of the parties contesting the election and are strongly invested in that party's victory. They have a record of going after their opponents with verbal abuse, intimidation and lethal violence. Their leaders are unrepentant for urging their supporters to commit acts of violence and arson.
What possible authority do they possess to monitor an election?
Besides, what does "monitoring" mean anyway? Will the UDD be posted inside each polling station across town? How many cadres per station? From the total numbers, it seems like it could be as many as 10. Will these "volunteers" wear red shirts? Will they be allowed to approach or talk to voters? Who will monitor these monitors? What authority will they be answering to? Or will the UDD limit itself to observing the vote count?
Ludicrously, Thida gives the UDD credit for ensuring fairness in the 2011 general election. The assertion serves one purpose only: to continue the revision of recent history by positioning the UDD as the the saviour of Thailand's democracy against the forces of the "elite" and Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democrat government - the actual authority that ensured the freedom and fairness of the 2011 poll.
Beyond the continuing farce of the UDD pretending to be a champion of democracy while plotting only to facilitate and consolidate a Pheu Thai victory, there's the fact that monitoring elections against fraud in Bangkok is largely unnecessary. Thailand's problem is not a lack of free elections, especially in key urban areas. It is the perversion of the democracy through vote-buying that takes place before the first voter steps into the booth - something that the UDD has no wish to challenge, since the practice serves it and its Pheu Thai allies well.