European election mission offer up in the air in Thailand


Sep 6, 2007, 8:01 GMT

Bangkok – European Union officials on Thursday met with Thai authorities to clarify their offer to send an election observation mission to monitor Thailand’s upcoming polls, but no decision was reached on the controversial proposal.

‘It’s now up to the Thai authorities to decide whether or not to invite an observation mission from the European Union side,’ said Portuguese Ambassador to Thailand Antionio Felix Machado de Faria e Maya, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

Faria e Maya and EU ambassador to Thailand Friedrich Hamburger met with Election Commission chairman Apichart Sukhagganond to clarify misunderstandings that have arisen over an EU offer to send an election observation mission (EOM) to monitor polls scheduled on December 23.

Thailand has been under a non-elected government since September 19, 2006, after the military staged a coup to oust former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his cabinet on charges of corruption and dividing the nation.

The government has proposed to hold a general election on December 23, although the date may be postponed till early 2008.

Although Thailand’s Election Commission was reportedly unopposed to an EU election observation team in principle, it has balked at signing a memorandum of understanding with the EU on the grounds that this might compromise Thailand’s sovereignty and go against Thai laws.

The EU, however, insists that a signed agreement is necessary.

‘There is a need for a set of rules to establish the rights and obligations of each party, the observers and the local authorities as well,’ said Faria e Maya. He said the Thai side was now studying the ‘technical and constitutional’ implications of signing an agreement with the EU.

The EU insistence on a MOU has already sparked criticisms from various national leaders, including an accusation by the junta’s head General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin that ousted premier Thaksin might be behind the EU’s election observation offer.

‘The European Commission does not act on behalf of deposed prime ministers from whatever country,’ said Hamburger. ‘This offer was made logically, to a friendly country that wants to go back to a democratically elected government.’

Hamburger added that normally the EU needs about two months to organize an election observing mission. In recent years the EU has organized poll-watching missions in several Asian countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor and Indonesia.

Thailand has a long history of ‘money politics’ determining the outcome of elections whether or not they are held under a military junta or an outgoing elected government.

European election mission offer up in the air in Thailand – Asia-Pacific

International Herald Tribune

Thai election commission to reconsider EU’s request to observe polls

The Associated Press

Published: September 6, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand: Thailand’s state election commission said Thursday it would review the European Union’s request to observe planned parliamentary elections later this year, the first national balloting since a coup removed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra almost a year ago.

The Thai government declined last week to sign an agreement proposed by the EU under which it would send a mission to observe the expected Dec. 23 polls, saying it would give the observers too much power to interfere with the process.

However, one of five election commissioners, Sodsri Sathayatham, said the commissioners would reconsider after hearing assurances from the EU that it had no intention of interfering.

Sodsri said the commission also had been concerned that the EU might present a negative image of Thailand.

Portuguese Ambassador Antonio Faria e Maya, representing the EU presidency, said a European observer mission would never comprise the sovereignty of the host country.

“Their mandate is to collect and verify information concerning the election process, to analyze the observations,” he said in a statement. “They have no authority to change, improve or correct any shortcomings that may occur in an election.”

The EU has sent over 60 missions to monitor elections around the world, he said.

Thaksin was ousted by the military last Sept. 19 amid growing unrest over alleged corruption and abuse of power. An interim government appointed by coup leaders drew up a new constitution, recently approved in a national referendum, and announced that elections would be held Dec. 23, after which the interim government would disband.


Thailand, EU reach compromise over poll observers

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand and the European Union on Thursday reached a compromise over an EU proposal to send election observers for the kingdom’s post-coup polls in December.

The EU’s offer initially sparked anger from Thailand’s army-backed government, with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont saying that allowing the observers would “amount to giving them control of the election.”

But following a meeting with EU diplomats in Bangkok, the election commission said it would now consider accepting a small number of observers if no formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) was required.

“Without signing an MOU, Thailand could have a team sent by the EU to observe the election, but not a team of 150 staff,” the commission’s secretary general Sutthiphon Thaveechaiyakarn told reporters after the meeting.

Friedrich Hamburger, head of the European delegation in Bangkok, said EU officials would await Thailand’s final decision on their offer, telling reporters: “We expect an answer from Thai authorities very soon.”

Thailand’s junta leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, had ordered a probe into the EU proposal last month, saying ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra might be behind the offer.

Hamburger tried to ease Thai concerns, stressing that the proposal was not influenced by “any outside consideration.”

“The EU does not act on behalf of the deposed prime minister,” he told reporters.

The junta has set elections for December 23 to restore democracy after the bloodless coup in September 2006, which toppled Thaksin’s government.



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