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NCPO orders undermine political parties; a hurdle to free and fair election, say politicians

NCPO orders undermine political parties; a hurdle to free and fair election, say politicians

SUNDAY, October 14, 2018
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THE NATIONAL Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the orders it has issued remain a major obstacle in ensuring a free and fair election, a public forum on elections and the country’s future was told.

Chaturon Chaisang, core leader of the Pheu Thai Party, said the new political system designed under junta-sponsored laws would render the election meaningless, leaving voters with the right to vote but unable to truly determine the country’s leaders or public policies.

NCPO orders undermine political parties; a hurdle to free and fair election, say politicians

A commemoration of the 1973 student uprising is held yesterday at the October 14 memorial, marking the 45th anniversary of the bloodshed fighting a military regime. // The Nation photo
In the name of peace and order, the NCPO kept the ban on political activities including the political campaign, he said. Although the regime promised to lift the ban in December, the veteran politician predicted that the campaign would still be limited.
“The only thing allowed to be communicated is how amazing this [Prayut Chan-o-cha]’s administration is,” Chaturon said at the forum at Thammasat University yesterday on the 45th anniversary of the October 14, 1973 student uprising against a military regime. 
“The political campaign is actually in the law. But they forbid [us] from doing it, citing peace and order. But it destroys the spirit of the election,” said Chaturon, who was a student activist during the 1973 uprising.
When the election becomes meaningless, Chaturon said the coup-installed regime would be able to retain its power. The only way to reverse it would be for the public to pressure for a free and fair election.
Pheu Thai is seen as a target of the regime’s alleged abuse of power and currently fears party dissolution like its predecessors – Thai Rak Thai and People’s Power parties. Chaturon said he did not think there would be a dissolution of the party because there were no concrete reasons or evidence to prove Pheu Thai had done anything wrong. However, if such a mishap does occur, Chaturon said he believed Pheu Thai MPs could find shelter in other parties. 
In case Pheu Thai could not really run in the election, he said the party’s core leaders would root for other pro-democracy parties, encouraging its supporters to vote for them.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Future Forward Party (FWP), similarly said that the junta’s laws had been written to undermine rather than promote political parties’ rights and freedom.
The FWP recently became a victim of the junta’s restrictions and was ordered by the Election Commission (EC) to stop accepting donations. Piyabutr yesterday called on the agency to interpret the limited laws to benefit parties rather than cause more difficulties.
“All agencies, including the EC, should realise that the NCPO is now in decline and will soon be gone. [But the agencies] will stay even after the election. So, they should stand by democracy, not the coup-installed regime. Be the cogs in the wheel of democracy, not the NCPO,” he said. 
The other speakers at the forum hosted by an election watchdog, Free Fair & Fruitful Election, included representatives from various civil society groups and political parties such as Rames Ratanachaweng from the Democrat Party and Pradon Prisananatakul from Chart Thai Pattana Party.
They said the elections could not be truly free and fair unless political parties and voters enjoy full freedom.