This article was originally published by EngageMedia, a non-profit media, technology, and culture organization, and an edited version is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement with Global Voices.
Numerous Thai political parties convened on March 29, 2023, for a significant event as they signed two documents, namely the “Code of Conduct for 2023 Election Campaign” and a “Pledge Solemnly Given By Political Parties to the People 2023.” The signing ceremony demonstrates the parties’ shared aspirations for transparent and fair elections and their commitment to implementing promised policies collectively, including the protection of human and digital rights.
The signing ceremony was jointly organized by the Office of the Election Commission and a coalition of civil society and media organizations, including the Party for a Democratic Constitution, Peace and Culture Foundation, Central Organization for Democracy Foundation, Volunteer Social Foundation, WeWatch Election Observer Network 2023, WeVis, Pridi Banomyong Foundation, Pridi Banomyong Institute, Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), Women Political Leaders Program, COFACThailand, National Press Council, Association of Journalists of Thailand, Council of Consumer Organizations, and Public Broadcasting Service of Thailand.
The four-point Digital Rights Agenda for Political Parties, a report produced by EngageMedia, Asia Centre, and the Chiang Mai University-School of Public Policy, has been a valuable resource contributing to the “Responsible Use of Social Media in Election Campaigns” portion of the Code of Conduct (CoC), which addresses the same digital rights issues mentioned in the report.
EngageMedia Digital Rights Project Officer for Thailand, Prapasiri Suttisome, represented the organization as a witness signatory during the event. The code of conduct was signed by representatives of political parties in order to ensure a fair and peaceful electoral process. A network of democratic organizations, civil society, and the media will work together to create a mechanism to monitor political parties’ adherence to the CoC and whether the parties will live up to their promises after the election. The aim is to have an honest and free election without violence and to pave the way for peaceful political settlements.
Promoting democracy, human rights, and fair elections
According to Sawaeng Boonmee, Secretary-General of the Office of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), the signing of the CoC is an encouraging sign towards ensuring that the election of members of the House of Representatives is honest and fair. The signing also lays the foundation for the civil society election monitoring process, which aligns with the Election Commission of Thailand’s mission to promote democracy for all. During the event, Sawang expressed gratitude to the organizations for their support and acknowledged their contribution to the development of the “Ethics for the election of members of the House of Representatives 2023.” He also expressed his hope that political parties and candidates will adhere to the code of conduct to ensure that the election is held in accordance with the Constitution.
During the event, Gothom Areeya, President of the Democratic Constitutional Alliance and former ECT, said that the creation of election campaign ethics and political parties’ pledges resulted from the cooperation of various political parties and organizations working to achieve a transparent, fair, and innovative election. The Election Campaign Code also sets new standards, such as the “Responsible Use of Social Media in Election Campaigns” and “Women- and Gender-Friendly Election Campaigns,” that aim to create a space for political campaigning that covers both online and offline communications. The code also establishes new political standards regarding respect for human dignity and rights.
Furthermore, the Campaign Ethics will lay the foundation for rigorous monitoring by academics and civil society. In the “Pledge Solemnly Given By Political Parties to the People 2023,” political parties agreed that, regardless of who forms the government, it is crucial to work together to create stability, restore democracy, and promote economic development that leaves no one behind. This includes peace talks in the southern border provinces, decentralization of power to localities, promoting human rights and integration, reducing inequality, particularly in the economic aspect, taking care of the disadvantaged and the elderly, encouraging all groups of informal workers to enter the social security system comprehensively and thoroughly, and monitoring officials to prevent abuse of authority.
Ekapan Pinthavanich, former director of the Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University and representative of the Democratic Constitutional Alliance, emphasized the importance of having a network of democratic organizations, civil society, and the media working together to monitor political parties’ adherence to their promises and campaign codes.
Thanisara Ruangdech, representing civic technology initiative WeVis, expressed satisfaction with the ceremony and highlighted the “Promise Tracker” platform, which was developed to collate campaign promises from each party and closely monitor their policies and pledges. Supinya Klangnarong, founder of Cofac Thailand, discussed the FactCollabTH joint fact-checking project, which aims to monitor political misinformation during elections and create a fact-based political communication space. Finally, Associate Professor Anusorn Tamajai, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pridi Banomyong Institute and representative of the Alliance for Democratic Constitution, stressed the importance of a transparent and credible electoral process and encouraged political parties to integrate their policies and promises in their campaigns for the benefit of the people and the nation. Additionally, he highlighted the importance of having a constitution based on democratic principles and the need for an impartial electoral organization like the Election Commission of Thailand.
Read the full text of the 4-Point Digital Rights Agenda here and learn more about the report launch here.