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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Watchdog barks at election officials

The election office in this northeastern province has recommended the transfer of five government officials for political prejudice.

December 9, 2007

"The five are suspected of involvement in the intimidation of political canvassers and other violations of the campaign rules," provincial election-committee chairman Kasem Wattanatham said yesterday.

Their superiors will decide whether to launch disciplinary proceedings or reinstate them after the balloting, he said.

Provincial authorities are investigating eight complaints of vote-buying, he said. Law-enforcement officers are acting on a tip-off about irregular money movements in 20 locations ready to be paid out in exchange for votes.

Candidates and their ground operatives have devised new gimmicks to secure votes, he said. For example, some canvassers will give Bt20,000 to Bt30,000 to a grocer, and the villagers will pick up the pre-paid goods later.

In Chiang Rai, the 17 Northern Provinces Kamnan and Village Headmen Association issued a statement calling on its members to stop canvassing for votes.

Association chairman Inwan Bangngern said candidates were trying to recruit canvassers among public-health volunteers, village volunteers and the elderly to replace kamnan and village headmen.

Election Commissioner Sodsri Satayatham arrived in the province to launch an awareness campaign for absentee voting next weekend.

Commenting on the fierce vote-buying, Sodsri said the EC would tighten its monitoring in the final week of campaigning.

She said she had read the news reports about the intimidation of campaigners for the People Power Party but found that the PPP had made complaints only to attract publicity and had not asked the EC for action.

In Bangkok, EC chairman Apichart Sukhagganond rebuffed suspicions of half-baked efforts to suppress vote-buying, saying his agency was fighting money politics with all means available to it.

The Nation

Buri Ram

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