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Thailand: Risk of increasing unrest after main opposition party’s decision to boycott elections

Paris, Bangkok, December 21, 2013: FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) express their serious concern over the decision by Thailand’s opposition party, the Democrat Party, to boycott the general election scheduled to take place on February 2, 2014. The Democrat Party’s decision not to take part in the upcoming polls means that the ruling Pheua Thai Party (PTP) will have no significant opposition in the next Parliament. 
“Now, more than ever, Thailand needs a strong political force that can guarantee the necessary institutional checks and balances. The Democrat Party’s decision to boycott the elections creates a political vacuum that could open the door for more civil unrest,“ said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn. 
FIDH and UCL call on all political parties to negotiate an agreement that ensures the broadest possible spectrum of participants in the upcoming polls. The agreement should also pave the way for an inclusive and time-bound process of institutional and political reforms. All branches of the military must maintain their neutrality and play a positive role to ensure a peaceful resolution of the ongoing crisis within the constitutional framework. 
In addition, FIDH and UCL urge both government supporters and anti-government demonstrators to refrain from any political violence in the lead-up to the elections. 
Peaceful demonstrations against the government led by Yingluck Shinawatra began in Bangkok after the Lower House of Parliament adopted a PTP-sponsored amnesty bill on November 1. The bill granted a blanket amnesty for various crimes committed since 2004 by political leaders and government officials, including Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term following a conviction in a corruption-related case. The Senate rejected the amnesty bill on November 11. However, street protests continued, spearheaded by former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government group People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). The PDRC accused the PTP-backed administration of being “illegitimate” and proposed that Parliament be replaced by an interim unelected ‘People’s Council’ tasked with carrying out necessary political reforms before the holding of a general election. Suthep’s plan calls for the creation of a People’s Council made up of 400 members, 75% of whom coming from professional groups, and the remaining 25% selected by the PDRC. 
“Free, fair, and inclusive elections alone may not end Thailand’s current political crisis but they are the only mechanism that ensures that the voices of all Thai people are heard. The people’s mandate, not an unelected oligarchy, should be the starting point for Thailand’s political and institutional reforms ,“ said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. 
FIDH and UCL believe that the solution to Thailand’s political turmoil hinges on strengthening democratic principles, not obliterating them. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party, states that every citizen has the right to vote in ”genuine periodic elections” with “universal and equal suffrage.”

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