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The Administrative Court has revoked the Election Commission (EC)’s regulations on Senate candidate introductions, saying that the regulations are unconstitutional as they excessively infringe on the right to freedom of expression. Nevertheless, the Court order will not be effective until the EC expresses its intention not to appeal the verdict.

The Administrative Court on Friday (24 May) ruled to revoke some of the regulations devised by the EC that prohibit Senate candidates who work in the media from leveraging their talents and skills to introduce themselves and that limit the self-introductions of Senate candidates to not more than 2 A4 pages, stating that these regulations are deemed an excessive infringement of the right to freedom and a form of discrimination.

The Court’s verdict was in response to lawsuits filed by several potential candidates, including the former Dean of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law, Panat Tasneeyanond, and another 6 complainants, and Prachatai editor-in-chief Tewarit Maneechai. Panat asked for the regulations to be revoked as an excessive infringement of the right to freedom of expression, as a contravention of the intention for the Senate to represent the people, and as creating an excessive burden for candidates. Meanwhile, Tewarit called for the regulation to be revoked because it prevents public participation and infringes on candidates’ freedom to work, particularly for those in journalism and the arts.

The Court ruled to revoke 5 controversial regulations that had been challenged. However, the Court order will not be effective until the EC expresses its intention not to appeal the verdict.

Regulation 3 defines “introduction” as telling, explaining, or distributing documents to get to know other Senate candidates. The Court stated that this regulation excludes public participation.

Regulation 7 states that the candidates’ self-introduction documents must not exceed 2 A4 pages and limits what information can be included in the documents, such as personal information, photographs, educational and work experience or experience in related fields where the candidates are competing. The Court said this affected the candidates’ freedom to introduce themselves, asserting that they could add additional comments or opinions in their introductions.

Regulation 8 states that the candidates can introduce themselves through social media platforms, but it should be strictly shared only among other Senate candidates.

Regulation 11(2) states that candidates in the media industry are not allowed to take advantage of their professional skills in their introductions. The Court stated that this is deemed to be discrimination against those in the media industry, as candidates in other fields may have the freedom to do this.

Regulation 11(3) prohibits candidates from distributing or posting their introduction documents in public places. The Court said some candidates, who could not access social media platforms, may have less chance to introduce themselves to others.

Meanwhile, Sawang Boomee, the EC Secretary-General, told the media that regulations like this have always been used, but when the Court ordered the inclusion of more public participation, the EC must abide by it. Sawang did not reveal whether the EC would appeal the Court’s ruling, according to ThaiPBS.

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