FOREIGN observers expressed satisfaction yesterday over final preparations for today’s referendum, saying the process had so far been “open and transparent”.
Six representatives from the election commissions of Bhutan and East Timor (three from each country) visited a coordination centre in Ayutthaya province’s Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district to see how voting equipment such as ballots and boxes were distributed to polling booth staff.
Ayutthaya Governor Prayoon Rattanasenee explained to the observers how the province had prepared for the referendum on the charter draft.
He said the province’s 16 districts had 1,036 polling stations and they were ready for the referendum vote.
After a visit to the district centre, a representative from Bhutan’s election commission, who asked not to be named, said the process had so far been “open and transparent”.
He said Thailand’s voting preparation process was similar to Bhutan’s.
However, he added, his country used voting machines instead of ballots like Thailand did.
The Bhutanese officials are studying the referendum voting process here before their country holds its general election in 2018.
Compared to the over one million officials organising the referendum, including polling booth staff at over 90,000 booths, Bhutan will deploy about 8,000 election administrators in 2018.
“We have around 400,000 |eligible voters [while Thailand |has over 50 million]. So our elec-tion is on a smaller scale,” the |Bhutan representative said.
A representative of the East Timor election agency said his delegation was using the event to also help prepare for a possible referendum in his country.
“East Timor has independence, but it has never held a referendum,” he said.
The representative, who asked not to be named, said as his country only got independence in 2002, and it was unclear whether its charter would be amended.
East Timor’s head election commissioner, Jose Agostinho da Costa Belo, said Thailand had effectively spent its referendum budget and his delegation had studied that.
A source close to Thailand’s Election Commission said the Thai EC and its Bhutan and East Timor counterparts often observe one another’s work.
EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said three other international watchdogs had been scheduled to observe preparations yesterday – the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel), the Asia Foundation and Nepal’s election agency.
Pongsak Chan-on, Thailand programme coordinator for Anfrel, said the organisation had applied for a referendum observation permit but the EC took too long to respond, as it did not have enough time to fully prepare.
Nepal’s election agency, according to the EC source, could not make it due to its tight schedule.
It is understood the Asia Foundation also did not join the Ayutthaya trip due to its schedule but will monitor events via today’s observation programme, visiting polling booths in Bang Khae in Bangkok, as well as Nonthaburi and Prachin Buri.