Updated: Truth on trial, again

31 08 2014

A couple of days ago, it was reported that 36-year-old Surakrit Chaimongkol, a red shirt accused of murdering anti-democrat leader Suthin Tharatin, died in prison.

Suthin led groups of anti-democrats as they campaigned to bring down the elected government, eventually leading to the 22 May 2014 military coup. He was shot during these demonstrations, by unknown gunmen, as the anti-democrats disrupted voting in the 2014 election on 26 January.

Surakrit was arrested soon after the military coup, on 8 July, and has been in prison since then.

Surakrit’s death is reported in Khaosod with the Director of the Corrections Department Wittaya Suriyawong stating that “Surakrit had an asthma attack on 28 August. Although officials rushed him to hospital immediately, Mr. Surakrit died that evening…”.

Surakrit’s mother, Arie Chaimongkol, was immediately suspicious of the “cirucmstances of her son’s death.” She stated: “I don’t believe he died because of medical condition.” She claimed that the last time she saw her son he stated that he had been threatened and beaten.

Surakrit, who has been refused bail, “told her he was coerced by unidentified individuals in prison to confess about his actions and reveal the names of the people who commanded him to commit the alleged murder.”

Her suspicions must have been further heightened when Wittaya said: “Let me stress that he wasn’t harmed by anyone.” His claim was supported by “Sorasith Chongcharoen, director of Bangkok’s Remand Prison, [who] admitted that Mr. Surakrit had no previous history of asthma, but insisted that the suspect died of a medical condition and not because he was mistreated in any way.” He added: “During his time in prison, Mr. Surakrit had no problem with other inmates, and he was never harmed…”.

There are times when the repeated denial sounds more like an admission, especially when the deniers can’t get their stories straight.

The Bangkok Post has recently reported on an official autopsy. It says nothing of asthma. Rather, it says that Surakrit “died of gastrointestinal bleeding while in detention.”

A police forensic doctor also stated that there “were no signs of external injuries…” and that “[g]astrointestinal bleeding could be the result of ulcers or painkillers…”. The doctor said nothing about finding any evidence of these issues, suggesting that he is making it up.

Surakrit’s mother has a right to be very suspicious. She “believes her son may have died from internal injuries suffered in a beating.”

Update: Khaosod has a different take on the autopsy, quoting Salaktham Tojirakarn, a physician and son of a prominent red shirt leader, who said” the initial autopsy revealed a large amount of bleeding in Mr. Surakrit’s digestive system and some ‘bruises’ on his body, but stressed that it is too early to determine a clear cause of death.”

Nonsensical “journalism”

5 05 2014

The mainstream media has produced some bizarre commentary in recent years. Much of this has been due to political bias. The op-eds at The Nation by its team of yellow-shirted commentators have been especially odd, often reproducing some of the most ridiculous of notions drawn from ultra-royalist social media and political rags like ASTV/Manager. So notoriously bad and silly was much of this commentary that is spawned a spoof edition called Not The Nation.

One might suggest that this doesn’t matter too much. After all, op-eds are meant to take a “position,” and that they are, after all, opinions. Generally, though, readers might expect that those called on to write an op-ed in major newspapers have some kind of qualification or knowledge that permits a view to be presented that has a little credibility.

Apparently this is not the case for the Bangkok Post. Its recent op-ed by Saritdet Marukatat is arguably the most ridiculous op-ed we at PPT have read in a newspaper that presents itself as a serious news outlet. Saritdet is said to be the “digital media news editor” at the Post.

His contribution is a comparison of Syria’s politics with Thailand’s political shenanigans, and Yingluck Shinawatra with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Yes, Syria. Forget the vicious civil war in Syria that has killed up to 200,000, forget the millions of refugees, forget that Syria is a presidential political system that is under the control of the Arab Socialist Ba’at Party, forget that there is an armed opposition that has established a divided “administration, and forget that the “election” there is for the president. Forget all of that – well, mention some of it, but then ignore it – and write an op-ed that “compares” the incomparable.

Then make this claim: “… what happens after the election in Syria is likely to indicate what Thailand will encounter after July 20. Elections held amid deep, bitter conflict can never work. Syria will show that to Thailand.” Yes, Thailand’s conflict is claimed to be as deep and bitter as that in Syria.

Forget that Thailand’s aborted February election was mostly held in a peaceful manner in most of the country and was only prevented in only a few places where the anti-democratic Democrat Party’s thugs, supported by elements of the Election Commission, stopped voters from going to the polls.

Clearly, Saritdet is making stuff up or filching it from some mad yellow shirts. He uses it for political effect and impact and to continue to oppose the very idea of an election. Perhaps he should stick to the digital media and forget journalism.



Elections, shooters and pretenders

7 02 2014

This is a bit of a news roundup from PPT, of things we’d like to say more on but just don’t have time.

We just saw a report by Kocha Olarn who is CNN International’s producer in Bangkok. He was caught in the shooting at Laksi last Saturday, and contrary to what General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said, he was initially with pro-election/red shirt marchers. His account is of how they were attacked and shot by anti-democrat shooters. The shooters he saw seem like well-trained military types, apparently using snipers and two-man teams of shooters, with the latter shown in the video. They have body armor and other pictures have shown radios. They really look like military. Little wonder that Prayuth has been so voluble in denial and antagonistic.

At New Mandala, Nick Nostitz has just posted his account of the Laksi events, with his usual graphic photos.

After the anti-democrat shooting, there was the 2014 election. Chris Baker has an analysis of the voting at New Mandala and Bangkok Pundit has another.

Failed ministerOld prince Mom Ratchawong Pridiyathorn Devakula caused a kerfuffle yesterday calling on the government to resign via an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

(Actually, we should say “young” as the wealthy prince – he an his wife were worth 1 billion baht back in 2009 – is only in his late 60s, and most of the old duffers who think they should be running the country are a lot older than this!)

He’s been praised by the anti-democrats, but given that he is one of them, this is no surprise (see his “patriotic” pocket square in the picture). Opponents accused Pridiyathorn of wanting to be an appointed premier if Yingluck’s government could be ditched. In fact, Pridiyathorn has a longish history of craving high position and was talked about as a possible premier immediately after the 2006 military coup. Instead that position went to someone even closer to the king.

Pridiyathorn became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, and this saw one of the most spectacular failures ever in Thailand’s modern political history. He lasted just a few months, with his most disastrous decision being his decision on capital controls. We quote Wikipedia:

Pridiyathorn instituted capital controls to attempt to reverse a strengthening of the baht, but reversed the measure after the Thai stock market crashed, destroying US$20 billion of market value in one day. Pridiyathorn later noted that “This was not a mistake…”.

He obviously believes in himself and his ability to provide “advice” despite this catastrophic crash-and-burn failure. The old elite has nothing if not unshakable confidence in their own greatness. And, he is taken seriously by those on the anti-democrat side.

And on pretending, the Constitutional Court has been at it again. Official red shirt Weng Tojirakarn has criticised the Courts “verdict that anti-government protesters are merely exercising constitutional rights of assembly.” He says: “The verdict of the court contradicts with reality…”. That’s true of most of the court’s politicized decisions. He also points out that court:

insisted that the PCAD is simply exercising the rights of peaceful assembly – which is protected under the Constitution – in response to the government′s pursuit of a legislation that would have absolved the corruption conviction of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Weng asked: “I′m curious whether the court is in league with Mr. Suthep…”. That would seem a rhetorical question.

A Washington view

7 02 2014

We thought readers might be interested in the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) view from “inside the beltway.”

As would be expected, it is highly focused on U.S. interests, elites and their politics, worried that Thailand can’t play its “regional leadership role” and calling for a “new elite arrangement is needed, but it must be one that recognizes Pheu Thai’s … electoral mandate, though not necessarily with Yingluck [Shinawatra] as prime minister. That a U.S. policy leader would see Yingluck as expendable is remarkably shortsighted. She has been the one leader in the past decade or so who has shown a capacity for compromise:

Thai Democracy Faces Continuing Hurdles in the Wake of Elections

By Murray Hiebert, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Gregory Poling, Fellow, and Noelan Arbis, Researcher, Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, CSIS

Thailand held national elections on February 2 that besieged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government hoped would quell a months-long political crisis. The polls proceeded more peacefully than had been expected, and the higher-than-predicted turnout undercut the message of government opponents who claim to represent the will of the people. But the elections did not break the current political deadlock, which is set to continue for at least several months—months in which Thailand cannot fulfill its role as a regional leader and during which the United States and the international community should sharpen their messaging toward Bangkok.

Government opponents, led by former senior Democrat Party politician Suthep Thaugsuban and supported by many middle- and upper-class residents of Bangkok and southern Thailand, forced the cancellation of voting at 11 percent of polling places, mainly in the south and the capital. A week earlier they had prevented hundreds of thousands of people from voting early. According to the Election Commission, voter turnout in the 68 (out of 75) provinces where at least some polling places opened was about 45 percent, defying opposition expectations. But the commission has said it will hold off releasing any results until early voters are given another chance to cast their ballots on February 23.

The Election Commission will need to organize by-elections in all those constituencies that were unable to vote, including the 28 in which demonstrators blocked candidate registration in December. By-elections will also be needed for constituencies in which unopposed candidates received the support of less than 20 percent of eligible voters or fewer than the number of “no” votes cast.

According to Thailand’s constitution, a new parliament cannot be formed until 95 percent of seats are filled. The elections clearly fell short of that number, although how short remains unclear. But the Election Commission has said that organizing all the necessary by-elections could take anywhere from three to six months. That means the country will be stuck with a caretaker government until at least mid-2014, assuming it can cling to power that long. Such a government cannot make crucial budget decisions, cannot pass important legislation, and cannot reach international agreements. In other words, it cannot lead, either at home or abroad.

The Yingluck government still balances on a knife-edge, with the opposition challenging the election results in court and continuing to mount street protests. Many observers in Bangkok expect the political stalemate will be resolved by some kind of an “administrative coup” in the weeks ahead.

Few expect a military coup like the one launched against Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin, in 2006. The generals appear loathe to overthrow yet another popularly elected government and face the domestic and international opprobrium that would follow. Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and other top generals publicly cast ballots in the elections, sending a message that even if they are not overly fond of the government, they will respect the system. General Prayuth on February 4 admitted that the elections had turned out better than expected and said the military would not be pushed by outside groups into launching a coup.

That leaves Thailand’s courts and other appointed government bodies as the key players to watch in the days ahead. Government opponents have petitioned the Constitutional Court to nullify the election results and disband Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party, arguing that the polls were not free and fair because they were held under a state of emergency. Many legal experts in Thailand have dismissed that argument, but the courts have consistently proved unfriendly to the current government and ordered the dissolution of the last two pro-Thaksin ruling parties.

A likely scenario is that Yingluck and most of the Pheu Thai leadership could be ousted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. On January 7 the commission charged 308 members of the parliament’s lower house, most of whom are members of Pheu Thai, with illegally seeking to pass a constitutional amendment to make the country’s Senate fully elected. Then on January 28 it launched an investigation of Yingluck’s role in a costly government rice-pledging scheme after bringing formal charges against two of her cabinet members. These cases could effectively nullify the February 2 elections by declaring the vast majority of Pheu Thai lawmakers ineligible for office for five years.

The only constitutional recourse then would be to organize yet another set of elections, which would have to be held amid even greater chaos. This would likely mean that the interim government would be replaced by some kind of appointed council made up of prominent Thais or technocrats with the backing of the military, not unlike what the opposition has been calling for. This council would need to figure out what to do about revising the constitution and eventually holding fresh elections.

Thailand’s political crisis will be solved by Thais, and international actors have limited leverage. But that does not mean that outsiders, the United States in particular, have none at all. Thailand has been a U.S. treaty ally for a half century and a friend for over 180 years. Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, should reiterate to Thailand’s political elites that, as a friend, the United States stands for democracy and hopes that the country will soon find its way back to a democratic political path.

In recent weeks, the U.S. ambassador and the State Department have urged Thais to resolve the current impasse at the ballot box. Those messages prompted the government’s opponents to accuse Washington of siding with the ruling party and threaten to force their way into the U.S. Embassy. Still, the statements reminded the military and others that the international community would oppose any extra-constitutional change in government.

While the annual Cobra Gold military exercises will go ahead in Thailand later in February, the United States should also remind Bangkok that the unending political bickering has delayed some high-level military-to-military engagement as well as civilian efforts to expand regional cooperation in neighboring countries like Myanmar and in joint regional health projects.

It might also be useful to remind Thailand that its neighbors worry about the country being missing in action. The Thai foreign minister could not attend a recent ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Myanmar, and Southeast Asian officials are starting to wonder if Thailand will be able to play its key role as the ASEAN interlocutor with China in the months ahead.

U.S. messaging will play only a minor, if any, role in helping to persuade Thailand’s political and military elites to preserve their country’s democratic system. In the end, the nearly decade-long cycle of rival factions seeking to oust sitting governments can be resolved only if Thailand’s various political stakeholders recognize that politics cannot be a zero-sum game. This is particularly critical given that highly revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a frequent arbiter in previous crises, is 86 and ailing.

A new elite arrangement is needed, but it must be one that recognizes Pheu Thai’s, or its next incarnation’s, electoral mandate, though not necessarily with Yingluck as prime minister. The Democrats must accept that no amount of constitutional tinkering will change the fact that their only sustainable path to power in today’s Thailand is by competing for votes nationwide, as dozens of third parties did in the recent elections. And Pheu Thai politicians must learn that an electoral majority is not a cudgel, because leaving opponents no recourse in the parliament will only drive them into the streets.

Anti-democrat propagandists

6 02 2014

Regular PPT readers will surely know that Kasit Piromya is a former  Foreign Minister under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and is a Democrat Party member of parliament. He is also a former speaker on the PAD stage, charged but still awaiting trial, for his role in the 2008 airport occupation.

In recent weeks, Kasit has been “writing” op-eds at Al Jazeera. The latest one certainly deserves the inverted commas as, based on previous missives by Kasit, we do not think him capable of the material presented this time. We naturally assume that, writing in an international outlet, Kasit seeks to influence international opinion. He fails hopelessly, not least because he thinks the international audience is made up of dolts. But let us look at what he says.

KasitThe current situation in Thailand is a “new experience” that “has given them the ability to see through the facade, a house of cards, erected by Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.”

We were a bit puzzled. “Facade” has not been the usual criticism, which has focused on alleged corruption and so on. Kasit, or whoever wrote it, jumps on what has been a brand new issue:

Fed up that the government could not pay a dime for their hard-earned harvest because of loopholes that encourage massive systematic corruption in the rice pledging scheme, the farmers took to the streets.

We might be wrong, but it just seems that the recent farmer demonstrations have been a bit too convenient for the anti-democrats. Are these like the rubber growers rallies of a few months ago? Even if they are real rallies now, has the anti-democrat blockade of government not caused some of the delays the farmers now face in receiving payments? Wasn’t stopping government from operating exactly what Suthep Thaugsuban promised?

Kasit continues:

Fed up with the government’s breach of trust to reconcile the nation, secretly pushing through an amnesty bill that will grant wholesale absolution to convicted politicians, the people took to the streets.

This is a lie. There was no secret. It was in parliament – was Kasit asleep? – it was in the newspapers and red shirts also campaigned against it. What was secret?

Kasit then speaks of an “illusion of democracy, [and]… we need a fair and transparent electoral system devoid of interference and violence.” What interference and violence was there in this election or in the last? Kasit and his writer are making stuff up.

He then gets shrill: Marbles

We wish not to see the country plunge further into the abyss, for we will be stuck in a black hole where totalitarian abuses of power will be accepted under the guise of democracy, where one man reigns with complete disregard for checks and balances.

PPT is lost here. In fact, the Yingluck government has been more conciliatory than they needed to be. They have lost several cases in the biased courts with little more than a bit of backchat on their part. Totalitarian? There are far fewer political prisoners than under the Democrat Party government Kasit served in 2008-11.

He says he’s not dreaming; we think he’s lost his marbles. Our evidence is this statement:

In modern Thai history, I have never seen any parliament majority defy the rule of law by brushing aside the judiciary and other independent anti-corruption bodies as if they were nothing more than pesky flies, as they made a mess of the country.

Can any reader tell us what he is talking about? Is he in some parallel universe? It seems so, for also reckons “we may have even been deceived by the distorted reality perpetuated by the mainstream media.” Really, this is such garbage that we won’t say more.

And what is this pretend reality about? “[O]ur cause [is] to redefine democracy, as a viable and fair system for all – where all votes are equal and respected…”. Kasit has lost his marbles. But we guess there are anti-democrats already sending this nonsense around by social media and giving it thousands of “likes.” This is anti-democrat propaganda that is for them and no one else. It is devoid of factual material and only the true believers will accept such nonsense.

Another propagandist sans facts is Nattaya Chetchotiros, Assistant News Editor at the Bangkok Post. In her recent op-ed, after providing some data on last week’s poll, and not pointing to any particular irregularities, apart from noting that further polling “will be disrupted again given the ongoing fierce political conflict.”

This is interesting for she cannot even bring herself to say that the disruption is entirely due to those she supports, the anti-democrats. This is mischievous and misleading. She does make a correct observation: “All roads lead to the Constitution Court again to settle the difference….”. It seems that “the difference” is that her lot want the election annulled. That is why a gaggle of anti-democrats have petitioned their judicial anti-democrat brethren to support them.

If annulled, she says:

It’s worth looking back at April 2, 2006 poll. The court annulled it and ordered a new poll on Oct 9 the same year. The Democrat Party, after boycotting the April 2 poll, decided to contest again. Should the Feb 2 poll be revoked, another big question that remains is, will there be enough time before the new election to reform the election rules so it will be truly free and fair the next time round?

So what was unfree and unfair about this recent poll? She doesn’t tell us.

It seems that, for the anti-democratic in Thailand, free and fair means an election that Thaksin Shinawatra-associated parties simply cannot win, for they keep winning elections that have been widely considered free and fair by most who are reasonable observers of Thailand’s politics.

In fact, these parties have won elections even when there was unfairness, such as the banning of several hundred of their brightest politicians in kangaroo courts and the changing of electoral rules to suit the Democrat Party.

International concern

5 02 2014

Many readers will already know that the U.S. government has expressed concerns regarding anti-democratic actions in Thailand regarding the election:

The United States has warned against any moves to stage a military coup in Thailand and said it was “concerned that political tensions” are challenging the nation’s democracy.

“We certainly do not want to see a coup or violence … in any case of course. We are speaking directly to all elements in Thai society to make clear the importance of using democratic and constitutional means to resolve political differences,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said after anti-government protesters tried to disrupt Sunday’s election.

While there had been “peaceful and orderly polling” in most areas “there were also disturbing incidents of violence on the eve of the election”, as well as efforts to block voters getting to the polls, she said.

“We remain concerned that political tensions in Thailand are posing challenges to the democratic institutions and processes of Thailand,” Psaki said. “We certainly don’t take sides … but we continue to urge all sides to commit to sincere dialogue to resolve political differences peacefully and democratically.”

Now the U.N. Secretary-General has also expressed his concerns:


New York, Feb 4 2014 10:00AM

Concerned that some Thai people were unable to vote after national elections were reportedly disrupted by protests over the weekend, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to resolve their differences through dialogue, and underscored that any actions that undermine democratic processes cannot be condoned.

“While he recognizes the complexity of the situation and that some chose not to participate in the election, the Secretary-General is concerned that a number of Thai people were not able to exercise their right to vote,” said a note to correspondents issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson last evening. Noting that the UN chief is closely following the developments in Thailand, the note reiterated Mr. Ban’s call for political differences to be solved through dialogue and in the best interest of the Thai people.

“Any action that undermines democratic processes and hinder the democratic right of the Thai people cannot be condoned,” said the note, adding that the Secretary-General encourages all Thais and political leaders in particular to move towards a political solution based on dialogue, compromise and respect for democratic principles.

While there may be “complexity,” both statements are made all the more stark by their simple rendering of basic facts about democratic principles.

No doubt the anti-democrats will proclaim a conspiracy against Thailand funded by an evil devil, and this conspiracy will be supported by the extremist bloggers from the U.S. who have become anti-democratic idols.

Ji on election and preventing the destruction of democratic space

4 02 2014

As we sometimes do, here we reproduce Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s latest statement on Thailand’s politics:

The 2nd February election in Thailand has solved nothing

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The 2nd February election cannot solve the Thai political crisis because those lined up against the government and the holding of democratic elections, are fundamentally opposed to democracy.

The election was marred by violence from Democrat Party thugs who were determined to prevent the election taking place. Armed thugs fired automatic weapons into crowds of people who were expressing their wish to vote. These thugs have been enjoying total impunity for over a month while intimidating voters and candidates.

Democrat Party leaders such as Sutep, Satit and Abhisit want the electoral process to be changed so that the middle class and the elites can have an absolute veto over the views of the majority of the electorate. Democracy doesn’t work for them because they only have support from less than 30% of the population. They are supported in their thuggery by the Constitutional Court, the top civil service, the mainstream media, sections of the Electoral Commission and the NGOs. The military is happy to stand by and watch Yingluk and Pua Thai’s discomfort. They may not want to stage a coup right now, but they will not lift a finger to defend democracy and the election. They want Yingluk to make more concessions to those who are opposed to democracy.

Despite the violence and intimidation, voting took place in most provinces and 20.4 million people cast their votes. This compares to 35 million in 2011. Given that the Democrat Party has in the past won no more than 14 million votes, and that in this election they called for a boycott, the turn-out was not too bad. It can be assumed that more than 20 million people wish to preserve democracy and many of those support Pua Thai.

No amount of compromise or negotiations with the anti-democratic thugs will solve the crisis. The only short-term result would be shrinkage of the democratic space and the further empowerment of those who view the majority of the electorate with contempt.

No amount of outrage at the violence and impunity of the thugs will push Yingluk or Pua Thai or the authorities into a crackdown on those committing criminal acts. As I mentioned in a previous article on “permanent Revolution” in Thailand, Yingluk would rather do a dirty deal with Sutep than to mobilise the Red Shirts and the general population to fight for democracy.

This means that pro-democracy activists, whether they be progressive Red Shirts, pro-democracy trade unionists, White Shirts, Nitirat supporters, socialists, or members of the Forum for the Defence of Democracy, all have to work together to prevent the destruction of the democratic space. They should also push forward with real reform proposals which will increase rights and the empowerment of the majority. The future of Thai democracy lies in their hands.

Further updated: 2014 election

2 02 2014

The election is underway, and the anti-democrats are doing their best to obstruct voting and voters in Bangkok and in the Democrat Party strongholds in the south. This snip from the Bangkok Post’s breaking news is telling on the blocking. Of course anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban said this wouldn’t happen. Are we to assume he is a liar or that he has lost control of the extremists?Capture

The “man in black” who attached Chuwit Kamolvisit, who heads a small party, was none other than an anti-democrat thug.

Update 1: From the Bangkok Post:

Would-be voters struggled to get into polling stations in 42 constituencies in Bangkok and southern provinces targeted by anti-government protesters as nationwide polls opened at 8am Sunday.

Despite this, Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said 333 out of 375 constituencies in other parts of the country were able to commence voting.

Mr Puchong said the polling units that were unable to open were mostly in the nine southern provinces.Capture

In Bangkok, protesters surrounded polling stations in Lak Si, Ratchathewi, Din Daeng, Bung Kum and Bang Kapi districts.

There have been no problems with voting in northern and northeastern provinces, he added.

Update 2: Khaosod has several useful reports on polling, including this:

Anti-election protesters have surrounded several electoral district offices in Bangkok to prevent distribution of ballot boxers and other equipment.

Protesters led by the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) blocked roads leading to the district offices of Din Daeng and Ratchathewi since early this morning.

The blockade effectively barred officials from distributing equipment necessary for the election to their respective polling stations, namely ballot papers and boxes.

The Bangkok Post reports:

Election officials cancelled the poll in nine of 14 provinces in the South. The provinces of Songkhla, Trang, Phatthalung, Phuket, Surat Thani, Ranong, Krabi, Chumphon and Phangnga had no voting at all.

They did not have constituency candidates, no party-list ballot papers and no officials to man the polling stations, Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Puchong Nuttrawong said.

Voting was underway in four of nine constituencies in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, he said. Booths were open in all constituencies in Satun, Yala, Narathiwat and Pattana but voters could not vote for party-list candidates as there were no ballot sheets, he added.

In Prachuap Khiri Khan, most polling stations opened for voting, Mr Puchong said.

Bangkok was experiencing many problems following a rally by anti-government protesters which forced most polling stations in Ratchathewi, Din Daeng and Lak Si districts to close. Some stations in Bang Kapi and Bung Kum districts were also closed as there were no officials to man the booths.

Only some stations in Lak Si district opened for polling. Lak Si was the scene of a clash on Saturday between the red shirts and People’s Democratic Reform Committee members which left six people injured.

All stations were able to open in the northern and northeastern regions, and 122 out of 127 polling stations opened in the central and eastern provinces, according to the EC.

The EC will set up a new election date for the areas unable to open on Sunday. It could be one week after the new advance voting day scheduled for Feb 23.

One creative but very frustrated response was reported at Khaosod:

Upset by the Election Commission′s failure to organise the voting, residents in Bangkok′s Ratchathewi district took matters to their own hands.

The EC has previously announced all polling stations in the district to be closed down after anti-election protesters surrounded the Ratchathewi district office to block distribution of ballot boxes and other equipment.

On the election

2 02 2014

Some thoughts on the election from across the Web:

Andrew Walker at ANU: “Respecting the electorate’s judgement may be an impossibly bitter pill for the anti-government forces to swallow. But it would be in their interests to do so.”

Oddly, because we usually agree with Walker’s commentary, we find this piece a bit shallow. The election is important for the symbolic support of voting and elections in the face of threats to them. We do not think that anyone will “respect” the outcome for much more than this. Blame the Democrat Party and their monied supporters for that. Ironically, money has become a symbol of opposition to Thaksin-backed parties.

Money and noA Bangkok Post editorial is lukewarm at best: “Set against a background of tumultuous political conflicts and held despite strong opposition from many parties including the Election Commission (EC) itself, the general election today will be mired in controversy and will likely yield more questions than answers to the ongoing political strife….  Still, the poll is being held as decreed by law and no matter how imperfect it has been, voters nationwide have a duty to cast their ballots.”

At The Nation: It shows its royalist anti-democrat colors by having an editorial on Syria…. It did have an election editorial the previous day: “Whether you are for or against the election, we all a share common duty in preventing violence. ” The editorial seems to diminish the act of voting and to want to scare potential voters.

Prachatai had an election story a couple of days ago: “In many countries, an expression of political will through voting, despite inconveniences and danger, is seen as an admirable act: a fulfilment of a civic duty…. But here in Thailand, voters who fought obstructions and risk their safety to cast the ballots last Sunday were given different labels: ‘traitors’, ‘buffalos’ and ‘the uneducated’.”

Siam Voices made useful points: “As Thailand holds what is considered the most controversial elections in its recent history Sunday, the battle over the country’s future is being fought anywhere but at the ballot…. The anti-election thuggery of last Sunday spoke volumes, when mobs obstructed advance voting in all of Bangkok and parts of the South and thus denied their fellow Thai citizens their right to vote. And we have to expect more of that on election day…. Granted, this coming election won’t solve the political stalemate. But to deny your fellow countrymen the right to vote and to paint everybody who does cast their ballot as ‘traitorous’ is not the way forward…. We’re still battling over how we are going to define the future of our country – and more people should have more freedom to have their say, not less.”

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