12 May 2023
Protection International (PI) is an international non-profit organisation that supports human rights defenders (HRDs) in developing their security and protection management strategies. Our ethos is centred around HRDs and people’s right to defend human rights.
Since the military seized power in a coup in 2014, the human rights situation in Thailand has been marked by the restriction of the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly and of expression, the crushing of dissent, the repression of pro-democracy protests, the refoulement of Myanmar refugees, and the (political, military, judicial) harassment of HRDs, just to name a few. In light of this grim human rights record, many in Thailand see the 2023 elections as a chance to break away from military rule and authoritarianism, and make way for genuine democracy where human rights are respected and HRDs protected.
Ahead of the general election scheduled to take place on 14 May 2023, PI insists on the importance of protecting HRDs in their call for and in having genuine democracy in Thailand. It is imperative that HRDs’ rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression – including the right to access information, to engage in public debates and discourses, journalistic activity and commentary on matters of public interest and human rights – are respected, honoured and protected.
PI emphasises that the right to freedom of expression should be upheld every day, and that during election periods – often characterized by their high-stakes nature – this right takes on special significance and must be guaranteed to all. Civil society organisations and HRDs who monitor electoral processes should be able to carry out their work unhampered. International standards recognise the key role of HRDs, their communities and their organisations in the participation of public affairs for upholding the rule of law and the realisation of human rights, and these must at all costs be respected and protected.
“Thailand is in a momentous moment in our history where the voice of the Thai people needs to be heard through this May election. It is crucial to amend and rewrite the Thai constitution by the people and for the people, as the current constitution, drafted by the military, has exerted control over various aspects, limiting human rights and justice.” – Pranom Somwong, PI Country Representative in Thailand
“In the pursuit of genuine democracy and in upholding fundamental human rights, Protection International calls on the Thai government to ensure that the Thai people can exercise their rights to vote and freedom of expression. We call on the Thai government and all stakeholders to ensure that all processes related to the election are conducted in a transparent, safe and fair manner.” – Mae Ocampo, PI Executive Director
With regards to the election on 14 May 2023, PI calls on the Thai government and its agencies to:
- Uphold and protect genuine democracy and the rights of all in Thailand at this crucial time; in particular, we urge the government to recognise and promote the key role that HRDs play in ensuring safe, just and fair elections;
- Take swift and preventive action to ensure the protection of HRDs and civil society organisations involved in election monitoring against threats and attacks, including in the digital space. There should be a commitment to a “zero tolerance stance” on violence against HRDs and the people of Thailand;
- Ensure that the Election Commission:
- provides a clear explanation of the mishandled early ballot papers, including detailed solutions and evidence to address the public’s concerns. It is crucial for the Commission to acknowledge this issue and take transparent and decisive actions. The counting of ballots on 14 May 2023 should be conducted transparently and without irregularities to ensure a fair election process;
- announces the locations where ballot counting will take place in advance. This will allow concerned individuals to attend and observe the vote counting process in all 400 districts. The electoral law already requires the disclosure of vote counting reports on the Provincial Election Commission Office’s website within five days of the election; and
- makes the pre-voting ballot paper count form (Form Sor Sor. 5/5) and the list of ballot papers after voting (Form Sor Sor. 5/7) simultaneously available online.
- Take into account that it is essential for the Polling Centre Election Committee to collaborate with the public in observing the election process. This includes documenting the election management process and recording the results of polling stations. Such participation will contribute to the transparency and fairness of this important election in Thailand.
It is PI’s hope that after the May 2023 election, the Thai government and stakeholders will support HRDs, civil society, and the people of Thailand in drafting a constitution that paves the way for true democracy and upholds human rights, social justice and fundamental freedoms.
For any press queries, please contact Pranom Somwong, PI Country Representative in Thailand, and Mae Ocampo, PI Executive Director, by writing to email@example.com.