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Discontent Over Thailand’s Election Commission Spills Out onto the Streets of Bangkok

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BANGKOK – Just one week after Thailand’s first election in five years, protesters have returned to Bangkok’s streets to step up their calls for the removal of the seven election commissioners, accusing them of mishandling last Sunday’s election.

A group of activists calling themselves “People Who Want Elections” on Sunday set up a desk at a McDonald’s outlet at Ratchaprasong for people to sign a petition to remove the commissioners over alleged irregularities in the March 24 general election.

The group was led by anti-coup activists including Anurak Jeantawanich, Sudsanguan Suthisorn and Ekachai Hongkangwan. About 100 security personnel were deployed to maintain order.

Mr Anurak said that he had obtained permission from Lumpini police to hold the rally and use sound equipment and loudspeakers. However, he claimed that the group were then obstructed by police and their equipment was seized.

Mr Anurak led some protesters onto the road in protest before police officers came to negotiate.

“The people now have the right to free speech in line with the law. The National Council for Peace and Order has already lifted the ban on gatherings of five people and more,” Mr Anursak said.

He went on to read a statement called “The Declaration of the People’s Victory”.

In the statement, the group alleged that the March 24 election was marred by fraud, vote-buying and irregularities in vote-counting.

The group insisted that the Pheu Thai Party gained the most constituency seats in the House and defeated the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), and should get the first chance to form a coalition government.

The group later played and sang songs including the anti-regime song Prathet Ku Mee (What My Country’s Got) before dispersing by 8pm.

Earlier, a netizen using the name “We Love Thailand” launched a petition on Change.org to oust the EC. It was reported that more than 800,000 people have already signed.

According to the unofficial results released by the EC last Thursday, the PPRP won more than 8.4 million votes while Pheu Thai was the winner in terms of seats with 137, 19 more than the PPRP (assuming 21 party-list seats for the PPRP).

‘Get out! Stop cheating! Respect the people!’ chanted the protesters close Bangkok’s Victory Monument [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

They included activists Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwat, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the now-dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Nuttaa Mahattana. The group also collected signatures for their own petition to oust the election commissioners.

Mr Sirawith read out a statement saying that the EC must disclose results from all the polling stations today. Otherwise, the group will step up its campaign to seek the removal of the commissioners and submit the matter to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for further action.

The EC on Sunday dismissed a report of a lorry carrying full ballot boxes to be destroyed in Samut Sakhon.

It said the lorry was moving all the equipment used for organising the polls to a designated location after the ballot cards had been counted.

Among the alleged irregularities found is a discrepancy in the number of voters, which was 13% more than reported in the previous announcement. On March 24 the commission said voter turnout was 65.9%, or 33,775,230, but on Thursday it said that the turnout was 74.7% and the number of votes was 38,268,375.

The EC explained that some 2.3 million advance votes and 100,000 ballots from foreign countries had not been included in the first announcement. Additionally, the earlier count was based on 93% of total votes and Thursday’s announcement was based on 100%, it said.

But observers have argued that the advance votes had to be sent to be counted at their respective constituencies on election day so the results would have to have included them.

At some stations, the number of voters also fell short of the ballot count while some advance ballots were sent to the wrong constituencies, which led to them being nullified.

Source: Reuters, Bangkok Post