Thai military should be involved in elections for two years

For electoral reform to be effective change must begin from the ground up, starting with the 'eradication' of village canvassers, and would require military involvement for another two years, National Reform Council member Pairoj Promsan said after an NRC meeting on the topic yesterday.

The military should have the task of investigating individuals and political parties involved in electoral fraud, he said.

Pairoj said another election area that needed reform was vote-counting and was suggested at yesterday's meeting that the process should take place at local electoral units instead of ballots being transported to a counting centre because "problems can occur during transportation".

In recent months, there has been speculation that the duty of organising elections will be taken from the Election Commission (EC) given back to the Interior Ministry.

Many members of the EC have criticised the idea, with one key member saying it would be "like giving a dagger to a thief" - because they say ministry officials are likely under the influence of the current administration and have a tendency to be partial.

NRC member Pracha Terat responded by pointing to the period from 1932 to 1997, which he claimed had seen successful and well-organised elections run by the Interior Ministry with cooperation of police, the Education Ministry and the Agricultural Ministry.

Pracha rejected claims that the Interior Ministry is partial, saying that though it was true some bureaucrats were politically biased, rules and mechanisms could be designed to punish and remove corrupt officials.

He said another reason for shifting the responsibility of organising elections to the Interior Ministry was the desire by NRC members to create a balance of power by separating the administrative and regulative elements of staging polls, with the EC delegated sole responsibility for regulating transparency.

The members said that in the past, administrative and regulative responsibility had been delegated to a single organisation and that raised questions about its willingness to regulate itself should it make an administrative error.