From Manager, June 21, 2011
The members of the Election Commission pray: Oh, may there be an earthquake and lava flow in the country that we visit and the plane cannot return from there until after 3rd July.
The caption reads: The tourism group prays for different things than others.
[This refers to the peculiar trip members of the Election Commission recently took. The trip was criticized as a dereliction of duty in the lead up to an election. However, it probably should be interpreted as fleeing the country in the face of relentless political pressure. It recalls a similar trip made during Thaksin’s time as PM when the Election Commission was under great pressure to support the government.
Non-Thais perhaps do not appreciate the novelty in Thailand of having “independent” agencies and oversight bodies. These were mainly the product of the 1997 constitution and were mercilessly battered by political powers that attempted to influence them.
This started in the Thai Rak Thai years when the Election Commission was the focus of intense Thaksin pressure to endorse the snap election results and other questionable election activities.
This led to one of the most amusing (or sad) incidents of the era when a number of EC members fled the country in the face of threats and enticements only to be lobbied non-stop by Thai Rak Thai cronies on the plane itself: (from EC chief: Nothing amiss with trip – Bangkok Post, May 19, 2006) Election Commission chairman Wasana Permlarp denies there was anything irregular about his trip to Australia last week, during which a person with links to Thai Rak Thai sat next to him on both the outbound and return flights. On May 11 the EC chairman took the TG 995 flight of Thai Airways International from Bangkok to Sydney. He was seated in first class beside Sawang Mankong-charoen, a real estate developer who is close to the Thai Rak Thai party.
Sitting behind him were Paithoon Pongkaysorn, a deputy director-general of the Revenue Department, and Jintana Kruapim, whose public relations firm clinched a 77-million-baht election campaign contract with the EC…
For now, the dream of independent checks and balances in the Thai system remains elusive. Few truly independent people appear to be willing to serve in these positions anymore.]