Thailand: Obstruction of advance voting condemned

FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) today condemn the illegal actions of anti-government protestors who prevented voters from casting advance ballots ahead of a general election scheduled for 2 February 2014.

Blocking citizens from exercising their voting rights is a serious violation of Thai laws and international human rights standards. The right to peaceful assembly must not infringe on the citizens’ fundamental right to vote. The anti-government protestors’ actions have obviously done so and must be condemned,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

On 26 January, scores of protesters with the anti-government group People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by former Deputy Minister Suthep Thaugsuban surrounded many polling stations in Bangkok. They blocked election officials from carrying out their duties and prevented voters from casting advance ballots. In some cases, anti-government protestors padlocked the entrance to polling stations. As a result, election officials cancelled advanced voting in more than 30 of 50 districts in Bangkok. Advance voting was also cancelled in numerous provinces including Phuket, Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Trang.

The PDRC claims that it is a pro-democracy movement. But it is difficult to see how disenfranchising other voters and obstructing the electoral process can be considered democratic,” said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

On 9 December, 2013, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved Parliament and called for a general election. Polls were scheduled for 2 February. The government has been steadfast in its position that elections could not be postponed due to the ongoing political unrest while the Election Commission (EC) sought to delay the elections to a later date. As a result, the EC asked for the Constitutional Court to rule on the controversy. On 24 January, the Constitutional Court ruled that the general election can be delayed because of political unrest. The court also ruled that the Election Commission can ask the government to reschedule the election. Prime Minister Yingluck is set to meet with the EC on 28 January to discuss whether the election needs to be postponed.

The Thai government must ensure that citizens can exercise their right to vote. This is particularly important if the government wants the general election to go ahead on 2 February,” Mr. Jaturong urged.