WFDA Statement: Asian Democrats Call for a Peaceful Election in Thailand and Progress in repairing Thai Democracy

The World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA) is closely following the general election that will be held in Thailand on 3 July, with both hope and concern.

Following the military coup in 2006, Thailand has seen a rapid succession of governments, of various persuasions, all of which suffered from deficits of legitimacy. Thai politics have become much more polarized, and violence has broken out on numerous occasions, most dramatically at the climax of demonstrations in April 2010.

This election is the best chance so far to make progress to resolve these conflicts; at the same time, it may also re-ignite tensions, as supporters of the various camps are mobilized. So far, the campaign and the advanced voting have proceeded relatively smoothly, although acts of violence and intimidation have occurred in many parts of the country, as reported by domestic and international observers, notably our WFDA partner organization, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

Previous Thai elections have seen instances of vote buying by political parties, electoral violence, intimidation, and disputed impartiality of polling officials, which have led ANFREL and other observers to be concerned about the campaign strategies of political candidates, the improper use of money in politics, and possible violence. In that regard, we welcome the Code of Conduct organized by Thai civil society groups in May, and signed by most major parties. We remind parties to strengthen their commitment to observe the terms of the Code of Conduct and restrain their members from violating the rights of others to make a free choice at the ballot box.

The period following the elections will be a critical time for the future of democracy in Thailand. We hope all parties will remember their pledge in the Code of Conduct to accept the democratically achieved election results, while reminding the election authorities to make sure that all specific election complaints are investigated and resolved swiftly and fairly. Furthermore, we call on the military to refrain from interfering in any way with the formation of a government based on the will of the majority. Finally, we call on whichever party or coalition wins power to launch a new effort to foster national reconciliation by reaching out to the other side and putting in place mechanisms to address both recent and long-standing issues of transitional justice.

In addition, we express our support and solidarity with the many Thai civil society organizations and activists who have continued to struggle for the protection of human rights and democracy in Thailand throughout this difficult period. Their example is the best foundation for enabling Thailand to restore its reputation as a tolerant democracy, which we look forward to seeing as soon as possible.

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