Thailand: ‘Vote No’ Campaign

Thais will troop to the polls next week and although the opposition is leading in some surveys, there is still no certainty of any group clinching a landslide victory. Unusually, the election ballot has a ‘no’ option provided to voters.

A campaign movement has been orchestrated to encourage citizens to vote on election day, but ‘Vote No’. The main group behind the ‘Vote No’ movement is the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) or the Yellow Shirts, who organized mass rallies a few years ago against the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. They are former allies of current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who is now pitted against Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Thaksin.

PAD believes the people must reject the corrupt electoral system which they think is dominated by power hungry politicians. Instead, they want political and electoral reforms to be instituted first.

Bangkok Pundit explains the motives of PAD:

The ‘vote no’ option is part of the People’s Alliance for Democracy view that the current political system in Thailand is corrupt and needs to be cleansed of dirty things and this includes Thailand being shut off/closed down for 3-5 years (understand this means a 3-5 year period of some national government).

The ‘Vote No’ posters feature animals dressed as politicians to convince the voters that voting is useless since the choices are all ‘wild beasts.’ Catherine translates the meaning of the election posters:

In the Vote NO! political campaign the animals are dressed in men’s business suits. Some suits are black but others are printed in notable bright blues and reds. The tiger, monitor lizard, and crocodile (in bright blue) apparently represents the Democrat Party (พรรคประชาธิปัตย์, Phak Prachathipat). The crocodile (in red) represents the Red Shirts (พรรคเพื่อไทย, Pheu Thai Party).

Each of the animals used in the campaign have a place in Thai thinking.

Buffalo: Slow and stupid.
Tiger: Lazy, gets something for nothing.
Dog: Makes noise and fights.
Monitor lizard: Very bad person.
Crocodile: Troublemaker.
Monkey: Deceives and cheats.

The posters have been declared illegal by election authorities. I-nomad writes:

Both parties are against the politics of both current pm Abhisit and former pm Thaksin. A previous campaign in the beginning of June, where animal heads were used as well, was ruled to be illegal. The official reason was that the billboards were too large and were displayed in an unproportionally high quantity.

The Isaan Record observes a ‘Vote No’ gathering in northern Thailand:

“I vote no because [current candidates] only want money and power,” said Jakhawan Agachat, 51, while she handed out information pamphlets.

Brathuan Broongkamma, on the other hand, voiced disapproval of politicians’ behavior. “We’ve noticed politicians act as animals in the parliament. They’re impolite, just like animals,”

Tony Hedges writes that voting ‘no’ is a waste of time:

Don’t be tempted to vote “no”. I am sure that the option is there in the hope that disaffected Redshirts vote no, somehow sleighting the government. Voting no is a waste of time. It doesn’t matter. If you make the effort to vote, vote for a political party.

FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand sees the ‘no’ vote as a form of passive resistance:

Voting is compulsory in Thailand, not voting is subject to criminal penalties. The Yellowshirt PAD is encouraging citizens not to vote. However, I see this as ‘passive resistance’ rather than genuine civil disobedience. With this strategy, we run the certainty that another bunch of greedy, little know-nothings will get themselves elected.

In short, voting in the July elections gives me no sense of comfort or justice. Much as in the USA, and Zimbabwe, there is no change which means there still is no hope. If we vote, the greedy, little know-nothings win; they win if we don’t vote, too.

If you vote, write in a protest vote, vote for yourself or your favourite buffalo or favourite monkey, spoil the ballot. If enough voters had the courage to protest at the polls, govt might consider itself warned. That is what only nonviolent civil disobedience can accomplish, putting power back into the hands of the people.

Some Twitter reactions from Bangkok:

@itteong: RT @smithsensei: Is voting no a smart thing to do? Voting no risks your least favorite candidate becoming elected. Better to vote for the LEAST WORST.

@bkkbrain: @_Willowtree_ actually, if it was my country, i would have done the same… the whole “no vote” campaign is insulting to the people

Some pundits warn that a 20 percent ‘no’ result would affect the political stability of Thailand since some forces might interpret it as loss of confidence of the people on the legitimate institutions of the country.

To counter the ‘Vote No’ campaign, there is also a conscious effort from some parties reminding the people to vote ‘yes.’

‘Vote Yes’ sticker from the Twitpic page of @sweatyinbkk


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