UDD to dispatch 10,000 city election observers

The red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) will send 10,000 volunteers to monitor all polling stations during the March 3 Bangkok governor election, says its chairwoman Tida Tawornseth.

Election laws state, however, that any unofficial election monitoring will have to be done outside of the polling stations.

Mrs Tida yesterday led a group of 30 volunteers to submit a letter to the Election Commission (EC), the Bangkok election panel and the city clerk, asking them to keep a close watch for poll cheats to ensure a fair and clean election.

The previous general election on July 3, 2011 involved an unusually high number of invalid ballots, Mrs Tida said. There were 60,000 invalid ballots for constituency candidates and 100,000 invalid ballots for party-list candidates, she said.

The UDD has readied about 10,000 volunteers to monitor the election at all polling stations on voting day, she said.

Rapid deployment teams would be immediately sent to polling stations where election irregularities occur, the UDD chairwoman said.

The red-shirt UDD was not pressuring the EC, Mrs Tida said.

Bangkok's election committee yesterday said the UDD will not be permitted to observe the March 3 election inside polling units.

The law does not allow outsiders inside polling units if they are not voting, Pol Lt-Gen Taweesak Tuchinda, chairman of the Bangkok election committee said.

Those who want to observe the election can do so from outside, he said.

Election candidates, however, can appoint one representative to observe the election at each of the 6,548 polling units throughout Bangkok.

The candidates are required to submit the list of their representatives to the election committee by Wednesday.

Those who enter an election station without permission could face arrest by police for violating the Local Election Act of 2002, Pol Lt-Gen Taweesak said.

The EC yesterday also instructed its officials to look out for new forms of election irregularities. Speaking during a meeting with the officials, EC member Somchai Juengprasert said the practice of buying votes has evolved, along with other forms of poll cheating.

He said candidates do not have to pay voters directly for their support. They may suggest voters buy goods at convenience stores. Afterward, the candidates would reimburse them for their purchases. In another tactic, voters could be asked to hand over their bank account numbers. Candidates would transfer money to them after they vote.He said the EC has been monitoring candidates' campaigns.

The authorities have also recorded the candidates' campaign broadcasts, he said.