Thailand's election commission rejects claims of lavish overseas trips

EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn

Puchong Nutrawong, secretary-general of the Election Commission (EC), yesterday denied allegations that the commission was splurging on trips to Europe.

He defended the EC, saying the purpose of the recent trips was to observe general elections in Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom, plus the public referendum in Scotland. He said the commissioners hoped to have the know-how to improve elections and public referendums in Thailand.

He went on to say that funding for the trip had been earmarked seven months ago as part of the 2014 budget. No foreign trips will be allowed under the 2015 fiscal budget, as per the junta's regulations.

Puchong admitted that some people, who were not staff members of the EC, had joined the trip, but said they had gone there to help collect data and not travel for pleasure.

EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said students from Class 5 of the Political and Electoral Development Institute had participated in the excursion. The cost for each person on the trip was Bt120,000 ($4,800), Bt50,000 of which was paid by the EC and the rest covered by the students themselves.

He said the trip was well worth the money, because it was a rare event. "It may take another 100 years or so before such an event takes place," he said, in reference to the Scottish referendum.

Somchai also attacked the press for allegedly sensationalising his trip to Scotland by publishing photos of him with the Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop. "They probably had political motivation for not choosing to present photographs of me working," he said.