Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Bangkok Post is an Enemy of Democracy

To observe, not interfere


Bangkok Post

The government and the Election Commission have every right to feel uneasy, even suspicious about the European Union's proposition that a Memorandum of Understanding be signed to allow EU officials or representatives to ''observe'' the forthcoming elections scheduled for Dec 23.

Why should the Electoral Commission be "suspicious"? Because the EU didn't slap the generals on the back and congratulate them for pulling off an illegal coup?

The Bangkok Post's argument that because the EU didn't sign off on the coup, so it can't be trusted to observe an election is one of the most idiotic arguments I have heard in my life. Normally you get this kind of stupidity from The Nation, not from the Bangkok Post.

The same concern and suspicion may also be shared by the people even though they -like their government and the EC - welcome the presence of foreign observers, be they the foreign media or EU officials, to observe the elections to ensure that it is carried out in a free and fair manner.

One would think the people would want as many outside observers as possible, considering the Thai media complains all the time about vote-buying and rigged elections.

EC chairman Apichart Sukhakanont, who is strongly opposed to signing any MoU with the EU, argued that signing the document would make Thailand appear like a colonial state unable to organise an election on its own without having to rely on foreign interference.

Notice the xenophobic propaganda and spin. I sure would love to read this MoU, but apparently the Thai media is more concerned with the government's spin rather than the facts. One has to ask why the Bangkok Post refuses to print the part of the MoU that outlines the EU's interference in the election process. Why is the Bangkok Post afraid of printing the facts?

Citing the example of Indonesia -which inked a similar document with the EU that resulted in an army of EU officials being sent to that country to ''observe'' the previous election, causing difficulties for the election officials -Mr Apichart admitted he was concerned that the MoU would allow EU observers to ''poke their heads into the polling booths'', which would be unacceptable.

Again, the Bangkok Post chooses the government's lies and spin over the facts. Exactly how did the EU cause difficulties for Indonesia?

EC secretary-general Sutthipol Thaweechaikarn further clarified that signing an MoU with the EU would amount to a ''degrading'' of Thailand into the category of a ''failed state'' similar to that of East Timor, whose first election after its independence from Indonesia was arranged and supervised by the United Nations.

I would love to read that piece of international law that says that any country that has foreign election observers is a failed state.

By the way, Thailand actively participated in the UN's mission in East Timor.

The viewpoint of the two election commissioners is valid and fully justified. Thailand is a sovereign state which is capable of holding an election without outside interference, be it EU or the United Nations.

History disagrees with the Bangkok Post.

Also, the holding of an election is an internal affair of a sovereign state in which no other countries should have the right to interfere, whatever their intentions.

Somebody should give the editors at the Bangkok Post a vocabulary lesson. Observe and interfere are not synonyms.

Although the EU or some EU member countries may still hold the Council for National Security in contempt for its role in the overthrow of the democratically-elected Thaksin government last September, Thailand has, for the past year under the military-installed government of General Surayud Chulanont, been better off politically than during the Thaksin era.

This is an outrageous lie and totally disputable. The Bangkok Post has just proven that it is a propaganda arm of the junta.

Thailand may still be seen as being under military rule in the eyes of the international community. But it is definitely not a ''failed state'' or a ''crisis state'' that should require the presence of EU officials to perform a task beyond the role of an observer.

I agree that Thailand isn't a failed state in the pejorative sense of the word, but why doesn't the Bangkok Post show us, with evidence, how the EU intends to interfere rather than observe?

The Aug 19 referendum on the draft constitution which went smoothly without any violent incident should, at least, provide a sense of relief that the forthcoming election will be smooth, although some violence cannot be completely ruled out and money-dumping to buy votes will be rampant.

The Bangkok Post has lost all credibility with this one sentence. The constitutional and referendum process was completely one sided, and organized opposition to the referendum was outlawed.

Further, the Bangkok Post contradicts itself when it openly acknowledges vote buying. Wouldn't it be nice if somebody actually documented it for once? Because the worthless Thai media certainly won't do it.

If the role of the EU officials and their representatives is strictly about observing the election to ensure it is free and fair, then they will be welcome. Moreover their presence will help supplement the work of independent monitors such as P-Net, which has monitored several elections in the past.

P-Net acknowledged that the military interfered in the last election.

Of course, the worthless Bangkok Post didn't print P-Net's findings.

Last but not least, the EC chairman should take into consideration the well-intended suggestion from Election Commissioner Sodsri Satjatham, about a possible legal problem regarding the fixing of the election date between the EC chairman and the government without prior consultation with all the political parties, which may result in the invalidation of the election afterwards by the Constitution Court. The same warning has also been voiced by Prasong Soonsiri, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.

Even if there is a slim chance that someone may challenge the legitimacy of the Dec 23 election, it would be wise and reasonable for the EC to do things correctly from the start _ that is, to do everything according to the letter of the law to avoid any complications that could arise in the future. Holding another election simply because of a legality or oversight on the part of the EC would be totally unforgivable and cannot be condoned.

Well, if the king commands the courts to nullify the election again, like he did last time, then the EC will be screwed no matter what it does.

In an ideal world, I agree with the sentiment that the US or the EU shouldn't interfere in elections going on elsewhere. As beacons of freedom and democracy, their records are questionable. But, in this situation, the Thai government has no credibility and its democratic credentials are non-existent. If the Thai media actually did its duty and informed the public of dirty political shenanigans, then I would be for telling the EU to mind its own business. Unfortunately, the Thai media is worthless and in the pocket of the military junta. Therefore, I am the side of full information and accountability, and if it takes the EU to sign off on the election to get that accountability, then I am all for it.

The xenophobic and right-wing nationalist position of the Bangkok Post is totally uncalled for and unjustified, especially since it has proven once again that it is an enemy of the rule of law and electoral democracy.

Update: The Bangkok Post is still an enemy of democracy


Election 'observers' a bitter pill for many Thais to swallow


It may be true that the country runs a credibility deficit in the eyes of the global community because of the coup. It is also true that such a coup is seen as preventing democracy from maturing. But it does not make an ounce of sense to argue that a country which has gone through a military revolt cannot be trusted to organise a free and fair election and may thus require chaperoning.

More idiocy. A military junta that has proven that it can't be trusted to run one poll, the referendum poll for example, can't be trusted to run an election. The military government and the Surayud government can't be trusted, especially if junta leaders will be running for office.

Past general elections were fraught with all malpractices imaginable and yet there were no ''observers with a cause'' knocking on our door.

Kamol is making an argument for observers.

Whether or not the EU is permitted to witness the poll from whatever distance will be decided in the days ahead. Either way, it will not bode well for Thailand's reputation or its political stability.

Funny, for Kamol, a coup and military dictatorship is OK, but a 3rd party guaranteeing the integrity of an election is bad for Thailand's reputation. Maybe if the Thai press did its job in monitoring elections and be critical of military coups, then Thailand wouldn't have to worry about the international community's concerns.

Denying the poll watchers entry could land Thailand in the hot seat for side-stepping transparency while letting them in without carefully prepared conditions will most likely provoke a public uproar and opponents will have a field day turning the issue into ammunition to launch against the government.

The Bangkok Post shows its true colors. It is worried that its political enemies, those in the former Thaksin camp, will cry foul over the military using the state to make sure its political allies win the election. So the Bangkok Post is really not concerned with the integrity of the election, it is more concerned that its allies win the election instead, and if they cheat, so what.

It may well impact the general election with admirers of the government feeling deceived by a decision to allow the observers to be present, exacting revenge by voting for their arch-rival the People's Power party in the poll. Politically, the observer issue spells disaster for the government and the coup makers backing it as both count down their remaining days in power.

Again, this writer is more concerned with the junta's political prospects more than the integrity of the election. This writer is really sick in the head.

The EU, however, seems adequately aware of the sensitivity surrounding the MoU and has maintained the terms of the poll observation are negotiable.

Well, the right-wing nationalist Bangkok Post chose to go the xenophobic route and didn't even point this out the MoU was negotiable in their editorial lambasting the EU's meddling.

It should also realise what it is asking for has a tendency to offend and be viewed as a hostile gesture, especially when there is talk of lobbying to have the general election put under the foreign watchers' magnifying glass in order to discredit the country.

The military junta has already discredited the country. The Thai media has already discredited the country. How can the EU discredit the country unless the government does something wrong or illegal?

People need no reminding of the scenes on television where foreign poll staff pop in at the polling stations and make notes on the balloting procedures in their noble quest to teach failing states basic democracy.

This last sentence is just an idiotic statement that means nothing.

Like I said before, the Thai government's track record for managing clean elections is horrible, and the Thai media has readily acknowledged this for decades.

I don't care if you are pro-Thaksin or pro-junta or pro-whatever, I think the more transparency, the better, and I don't see any sense in the idiotic right-wing argument that national pride is more important than protecting the sanctity of the election process.


hobby said...

IMO, the government has chosen the best course of action - let the EU observe, but don't sign a MoU due to the negative connotations.

As a matter of interest, the USA elections have appeared somewhat tainted over recent years - does the EU have a MoU to monitor those elections?

Ghafar said...

Will somebody be brave enough to say: The EU is not my father ?

Fonzi said...


The Democrats did want international observers, but the Republicans wouldn't allow it.

Personally, I think it would be in America's best interest to have observers, because it sets an example that the big boys are willing to practice what they preach.

hobby said...

I've got no problem with observers and think it's desirable, but I would draw the line at MoU's which could be seen to undermine sovereignty.

Matty said...

Observers are good and I agree with hobby that MoU is not needed.

Send all the foreign observers to the North and Northeast . . . that should be interesting.

Fonzi said...


What does the MoU say? Have you read it? And if you haven't read it, then how can you make a judgment about it one way or the other?

Fonzi said...

Matty and Hobby-

Another thing.

For almost a year I have heard you cry about Thaksin did this, Thaksin did that, including buying all the votes, so I would expect that you would support an outside organization documenting all the cheating.

In fact, I would think you would be screaming from the rooftops in support of it, because I have been demanding evidence from you for a year, and this is your chance to actually get some from an impartial 3rd party.

I would think after all your cries about Thaksin's corruption, you would want the EU to hold Thai election officials accountable for vote buying and malfeasance, one your complaints against TS.

But, in the end, Matty and Hobby, it really isn't about protecting the integrity of Thai democracy, is it?

By the way, a MoU can be negotiated like an other agreement, but the government chose to turn this into a right-wing propaganda issue.

hobby said...

Fonzi, where did Matty or I say that we don't want Observers?

Lack of a MoU would not stop Observers from documenting cheating, so what's your point?

Maybe Thailand should wait until USA signs a MoU with the EU, and then they can use the same terms.

Until then, welcome them to observe, but no MoU.

fall said...

Here is an

example of MoU and observer result from Turkey election.

If thai media have any worth at all, in the following week, we should be discussing why signing MoU is important, what the observer actually do, and how would it benefit Thailand.

The following are example key criteria by observer from Turkey:

Statistical Representation of Teams and Coverage

1. The degree of impartiality shown by the relevant Election Commission and election officials.

2. The degree of freedom of political parties and candidates to organise, move, assemble and express their views publicly.

3. The fairness of access to state resources made available for the election.

4. The fairness of access for political parties and candidates to the media, in particular the State media.

5. The manner in which registration of voters is conducted.

6. Any other issue concerning the essential freedom and fairness of the election.

7. The conduct of polling and counting of votes.


IMO, judging from the criteria, I would say the junta refuse to sign MoU for deniability. To refuse MoU right off the bat because "EU is not my father" is not wisdom, it's ignorance.

Kahve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kahve said...

The whole thing made me puke.

If Thailand is so proud as free, great state that it is not failed, I exactly feel that they should openly embrace the observers to "show them". But instead they and some commentators here have decided to take exactly the opposite defence against observers (well actually against MoU but the "hint" is under there, unless they show how MoU really "undermines sovereignity"), a defence that is so traditional exactly to dictatorships and similars...The most vocal defenders of "we are not failed state" etc seem to be always exactly those who need most the outside observers...

fall said...

Oops, link not working.
My bad.
And it's observe in Pakistan, not Turkey(typo, as reading about Turkey diplomat news).


hobby said...

Fall, I note that Pakistan did not sign the MoU according the the link you posted.

I could however understand it if Turkey signed a MoU because they are trying to get into the EU.

fall said...

Yes, Pakistan did not sign the MoU.

I cite it just for example of MoU and observer result. To promote discussion of "why", understanding of what it actually measure, and benefit/downside of having EU observer.