By Juthathip Lucksanawong
Foreign observers will play an important role in keeping an eye the referendum, local watchdogs said yesterday ahead of the foreign observation programme, which will kick off on Friday.
The Election Commission (EC) has endorsed at least 18 foreign representatives to observe the event and they may even be allowed to go inside the polling booths. However, domestic watchdogs have received no accreditation for the job, prompting concerns that the observation may be discriminatory and incomplete.
However, domestic observers told The Nation that those given the right to go into polling booths will help contribute to critical observation.
Domestic watchdogs such as “We Watch” and the “Open Forum for Democracy Foundation” [PNET] are keen on watching the voting process and possible fraud in the referendum. However, the referendum law does not allow them to do so, a source from PNET said. The source also said that no local watchdogs had asked for the accreditation, as they knew they would not be approved.
A source from the EC said the accredited foreign monitoring organisations include the election commissions from Bhutan and Timor-Leste as well as the Asia Foundation.
“The foreign observers could monitor preparations for the referendum, as well as the voting and counting process. However, they cannot observe inside the polling booths,” he pointed out.
Though certain foreign observers have joined the observation programme organised by the EC, Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation [Anfrel] has chosen not to, Pongsak Chan-on, Thailand programme coordinator for Anfrel, said.
He added that though Anfrel had applied for the observation permit, the EC took far too long to respond, which made it too late for it to prepare for the observation process, he said.
Hence, Anfrel has decided to become an unofficial observer and will use its own mechanisms to observe the voting process.
He said the EC’s first-time use of the Rapid Report App has also raised major concerns about the referendum’s transparency as no observes are allowed to watch when the authorities key in voting results.
“We cannot observe the use of the voting result report app by the authorities. So, how can we be sure that the result reported is accurate and transparent?” he asked.