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Entertainment should be banned at political events: EC

Election Commission member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn has slammed the National Legislative Assembly for lifting a ban on entertainment activities in political campaigns. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Allowing candidates running for the House of Representatives to sponsor various forms of entertainment in their election campaigns will move Thailand 43 years backward in politics, Election Commission member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said on Sunday.

Mr Somchai said the election on April 4, 1976 was the last poll in which MP candidates were allowed by the election law to sponsor entertainment events to draw the crowd to hear them speak in election campaigns.  

The election law was later amended to prohibit the use of entertainment for the campaigns. The prohibition has been enforced since the April 22, 1979 election.  

However, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday voted to leave out this prohibition. This means if the next general election is held in early 2019, Thailand would revert to the election law of 42 years ago, Mr Somchai said, reiterating his opposition to allowing election candidates to sponsor entertainment events. 

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He said entertainment in any form should not be allowed. Candidates should focus on presenting useful information to help voters decide whom to vote for. Such information, he said, includes the policies of their political parties and background details on the candidates, their ideologies, their personalities and their ability to communicate with people.

Voters’ attention should be focused on the candidates’ qualifications and qualities, not on the entertainment provided, he added.

Mr Somchai said allowing candidates to sponsor entertainment events will give big political parties a huge advantage over smaller parties because they usually have greater financial resources – or may even be linked to entertainment businesses as owners or shareholders.

Parties already in government might also use budgets allocated to various official agencies to hire star actors, actresses or singers to perform for them in election campaigns. This would lead to unfair competition.

“I believe the NLA’s decision (to leave out the entertainment ban) is simply to draw more people to listen to campaign speeches of politicians and political parties. Although the fund for this purpose is limited to the same amount, I think it would still be difficult for the new Election Commission to ensure fairness and honesty,” he said.