Public forum on electoral reforms in Thailand: More inclusive, transparent elections needed

The Asian Network for Free Elections and We Watch organized "From Ballot Box to Democracy: Public Forum on Electoral Reforms in Thailand" on Monday, 18 December 2023 highlighting the need for a more inclusive and transparent election.

ANFREL and We Watch hosted two panel discussions on "Lessons from electoral reform in Asia" and "Directions for Thailand's electoral reform".

ANFREL program manager Brizza Rosales.

During the first session, ANFREL program manager Brizza Rosales presented the "Kathmandu Declaration on Strengthening Democracy and Promoting Electoral Integrity through Electoral Reforms in Asia", the outcome document of the sixth Asian Electoral Stakeholder Forum which affirmed the collective dedication of electoral stakeholders for free, fair, accountable, transparent, inclusive, peaceful and democratic elections in Asia.

Rosales also presented key recommendations of ANFREL in Thailand from their observation of the 2023 General Election. Among the recommendations presented include the quicker release of election results, partnership with civil society organizations on conducting parallel vote tabulation, adoption of open election data principles, and improving voter accessibility and inclusion.

Panelists of the "Lessons on Electoral Reform in Asia" session.

Betty Epsilon Idroos, Member of the Election Commission Republic of Indonesia shared the preparations of the commission for the upcoming general election and their efforts to improve transparency and access to election data and information. Assistant Professor Dr. Onanong Thippimol of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Thammasat University shared the role that civil society organizations played in electoral reforms in Indonesia.

During the second discussion, the panelists discussed the electoral reform needed in Thailand and highlighted the importance of improving inclusiveness, increasing transparency in the electoral process and promoting a better informed electorate.

Panelists of the "Directions for Thailand's electoral reform" session.

Krit Seangsurin of We Watch presented the recommendations of the group based on their observation of the 2023 Thai General Election including extending the right to vote to monks and detainees in line with international standards, review of voter registration requirements particularly about housing registry, election management body independence, use of technology to reduce the number of polling staff and reduce mistakes in vote counting, and ensuring the right of election observers.

Other speakers include Parliament’s Political Development, Media, and People Participation Committee chairman Parit Wacharasindhu, Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Political Science assistant professor Dr. Pitch Pongsawat, and Office of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand director of Human Rights Situation Monitoring and Evaluation Bureau Panupun Som-skul.

Some of the points raised by We Watch were echoed by the other speakers particularly the extension of the right to vote to monks and detainees and improving voter knowledge and information on elections and democracy.

ECT deputy secretary-general Veera Yeeprae.

The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) deputy secretary-general Veera Yeeprae also presented during the public forum. He said that Section 96 of the Constitution which bars Buddhist monks, novice, ascetic or priests and detainees from voting should be amended. He said that there is a need for the ECT to have a wider time frame to work on elections. He also said that there should be better awareness of democracy among the public.

ANFREL executive director Chandanie Watawala.

ANFREL executive director Chandanie Watawala delivered the closing remarks.

Watch the live recordings here and here.

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