Poll rules waiver sought on floods

Poll rules waiver sought on floods

MPs say law curtails ability to send aid

In Nonthaburi, sandbags are stacked up to form a long embankment against an overflowing Chao Phraya River outside the old town hall building. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
In Nonthaburi, sandbags are stacked up to form a long embankment against an overflowing Chao Phraya River outside the old town hall building. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Pheu Thai Party is calling on the Election Commission (EC) to ease some electioneering regulations to allow politicians to help people affected by storm Noru which is predicted to cause widespread flood damage across much of the country.

The EC recently announced a set of strict rules saying what parties, potential election candidates and holders of political office can and cannot do during the 180-day period from now until March 23, when the House's term ends.

One restriction that bars candidates and parties from offering relief items to people affected by disasters such as floods or epidemics have left politicians, particularly those in the opposition, frustrated.

Noru, which barrelled into Vietnam on Wednesday after tearing through the Philippines as a super typhoon several days earlier, is forecast to bring heavy rain in several parts of the country and trigger or worsen floods when it pushes its way to the Northeast of Thailand in Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen today.

Worawat Ua-apinyakul, member of the Pheu Thai's strategic committee and a potential candidate in Phrae, said the poll agency should relax the rules and let politicians reach out to people when it is clear more than half of the country will bear the brunt of the storm.

He said the rules mean only the government can engage in relief operations while expressing doubt that state agencies alone can adequately provide relief and assistance.

"MPs, election candidates and parties are prepared to provide help, but they are being blocked from doing so by the EC's regulations.

"In Ubon Ratchani, our MPs want to help, but all we can do is send moral support," he said.

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai on Wednesday advised lawmakers to adhere to the EC's rules as the House committee on MPs affairs met to discuss them with EC deputy secretary-general Chanin Noilek clarifying the issue.

Among regulations raised were expenses incurred by activities deemed as electioneering and election campaign materials.

EC secretary-general Sawang Boonmee said on Wednesday the rules could not be relaxed, but that MPs can still go about their jobs such as visiting their constituents without providing any cash or handouts.

On criticism the rules were unfair as cabinet ministers could provide assistance to people hit by disasters, he insisted there was a level playing field, saying it is part of the ministers' jobs although they must also adhere to the regulations.

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