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March 24 election campaign starts with a whimper – Thai election 2019

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If you were expecting Wednesday’s announcement of the forthcoming election to spark an outbreak of election posters, billboards and a stream of online campaigning, you’ll be disappointed.

Stringent rules governing campaigning for the March 24 general election appear to be restricting freedom of expression as well as voters’ rights to information, according to academics on the matter.

Wednesday’s Royal Decree gave the green light for electoral campaigns to kick off. But instead of actively wooing voters online, many politicians are instead retreating from their social media sites for fear of violating the campaign rules drawn up by the Election Commission.

The rules stipulate, among a lot of other dos and don’ts, that any online media channel used for the campaign must be registered with the EC. Failure to comply is a crime punishable by up to six months in prison and up to a 10,000 baht fine.

Pheu Thai Party’s head of election strategy, Sudarat Keyuraphan, is playing along. She’s been inactive on Facebook up to Wednesday. But she announced that she would not return to the platform until she had notified the EC of her online campaign tool.

Many other politicians from parties across the political spectrum posted similar messages.

But the Thai Raksa Chart Party’s core leader Chaturon Chaisang defied the trend.

He wrote on Facebook on Wednesday soon after the hasty retreat by the others: “I’ve been advised to stop making comments or even temporarily shut down my Facebook page. But please be informed that I’m ready to obey the laws while I also uphold my right to freedom of expression. I insist on running the page and making comments. For starters, I’ll criticise the EC tomorrow.”

Voters would also lose the chance to be informed of policy proposals, Chaturon added. The politician suggested that the EC revise the strict rules and regulations governing campaigning. Political scientist Siriphan Noksuan Sawasdee expressed similar concerns in a recent forum on the election.

Parties and politicians are presented with a difficult problem in the election campaign, she pointed out. “The rules are full of traps,” she said.

Authorities are also warning politicians that they could be in breach of the law for erecting campaign placards on streets. They have been advised to take them down within five days otherwise they could face legal action for breaching the cleanliness and order law.

Authorities were also discussing how and where parties and politicians could place leaflets and placards in line with the EC’s orders.

March 24 election campaign starts with a whimper - Thai election 2019 | News by Thaiger

 

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