Killing unarmed protesters or staging coups; No barrier to a future career in politics

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

 The Election Commission is making proposals to their military masters about future election rules. Apart from increasing its own powers with respect to any out-going elected government, the Commission wants to see people banned from standing in elections if they have been found guilty of election fraud, drugs related crimes and lèse-majesté.

Of course people should be banned from standing as candidates if they cheat in elections, but in the past the charge of “election fraud” has been distorted by the anti-democrats. Sutep’s Democrat Party mob and the reactionary middle-class academics have tried to claim that so-called “populist policies”, such as the universal health care scheme, job creation funds and debt relief for the poor are all “vote-buying” and therefore “election fraud”. Naturally, the Democrat Party’s old-style patron-client system in Sutep’s Surat-Tani province does not count as “election fraud”.

The lèse-majesté law is an affront to freedom of expression and basic democratic principles. The law exists to protect the entire elite class including the military. It should be abolished, not used as a reason to ban people from politics.

Conspicuously missing from the Election Commission’s list of serious offences, which would result in banning people from standing in elections, are the following: ordering the killing of un-armed pro-democracy demonstrators, using violence to wreck elections, staging a military coup, ripping up the Constitution and calling for and welcoming a military coup.

The present Election Commission itself dragged its feet over organising the February elections and refused to open polling stations in some areas of Bangkok, thus denying many citizens the right to vote.

In Britain the Election Commission is controlled by an elected parliament with nominations made from all the main political parties. In Thailand the Commission is selected by un-elected judges and approved by a Senate, half of whom are appointed by the conservatives.

These latest proposals are just a glimpse of the junta’s road map to Thailand’s “Guided Democracy”.