Original By Kanokwan Kerdphalanun & Nantida Pongthong
May 12, 2566
The 2023 Thai general election, set to take place this Sunday (14th), is drawing widespread attention from Thailand and the global community. Expectations are high for the emergence of the next Prime Minister of Thailand, and hopes for the country’s political path towards true democracy. There are also aspirations for a more investment-friendly environment for industries around the world. BangkokBizNews, a Thai media outlet, has specifically interviewed diplomats from various countries, including the Swedish, Danish, New Zealand, and UK ambassadors to Thailand, as well as Chit Lee, a Taiwanese founder of the media company Vision Thai, who is deeply rooted in Thailand. They have expressed their official viewpoints and Taiwanese media on this Thai election.
Diplomatic Perspectives on the Thai General Election
H.E. Jon Åström Gröndahl, the Swedish Ambassador to Thailand, said, “Sweden is pleased that Thailand is holding general elections and hopes that they will be free and fair. Elections are the pillar of democracy and it is interesting to observe the colorful election campaign this year.”
Regarding expectations for the new government, Gröndahl hopes that Sweden will continue to strengthen bilateral relations with Thailand at all levels. Sweden and Thailand have much to learn from each other, and Sweden is ready to cooperate with Thailand’s new government on various issues of mutual interest, such as a world order based on law, sustainability, combating climate change, trade issues, and jointly improving and protecting the working conditions of Thai workers who go to pick wild fruits in Sweden.
Meanwhile, H.E. Jon Thorgaard, the Ambassador of Denmark to Thailand, said that Denmark attaches importance to environmental technology, waste management, clean energy, food technology, and policies for green transition, including cooperation within the framework of the European Union (EU).
Currently, Thailand has signed the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) at the ASEAN – EU Commemorative Summit in Brussels.
The Danish Ambassador is confident that the two countries will enhance cooperation in all fields to be more intimate and systematic, particularly within the ASEAN framework and emphasizing the concept of a green economy for the mutual benefit of the global community.
Meanwhile, H.E. Mr. Jonathan Kings, the New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand, responded to media questions about the general election of the House of Representatives on May 14, 2023, saying that although the New Zealand government did not send observers to this election, the New Zealand Embassy in Thailand will observe the election process on the said day.
Kings emphasized, “I am personally amazed to see how much importance is given to the right of Thai people to vote this time, as well as the enthusiasm of Thai people to exercise their democratic rights. Therefore, we look forward to this moment when Thai people go out to fulfill their democratic duty. In the end, I wish all Thai people the best.”
On the other hand, a political officer at the British Embassy in Thailand revealed that the UK is a democratic country and values the basic right of people to vote. Therefore, for the Thai elections of 2023, H.E. Mark Gooding OBE, the British Ambassador, will observe the elections at a polling unit near the embassy, along with embassy staff.
While the British ambassador said that the UK’s cooperation with the Thai government will continue and will extend the cooperation policy between the UK and Thailand in all aspects. This is especially true in trade and investment that emphasizes the use of technology for the transition to a green economy and a transition to a clean energy society.
Insights from Taiwanese Entrepreneur
In addition to the ambassadors to Thailand, BangkokBizNews also interviewed Chit Lee (Ter), the founder and CEO of VT Group and its media outlet Vision Thai, regarding his views on the Thai general election.
Chit Lee, originally from Taiwan, said, “Although there have been no formal diplomatic relations since Taiwan and Thailand severed ties in 1975, both sides still maintain offices that perform general diplomatic duties, such as consular visas, political economy, and cultural and educational affairs. In recent years, due to the Taiwanese government’s New Southbound Policy, Thailand has become a key point of exchange.”
The atmosphere surrounding this Thai general election is not as serious as the last one, but rather presents a scenario of diverse opinions. All political parties and factions are actively participating, hoping to contribute to Thailand’s future. Therefore, the political section of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand, and various Taiwanese government units that conduct business with Thailand, are all placing high importance on this Thai general election.
Expectations for the New Thai Government and Key Qualities
Chit Lee also offered some suggestions and insights about the upcoming Thai general election:
To the Thai government: Hold a fair and just election that ensures the election system, process, and results gain the trust of the Thai people. Elections should not be merely formalities, but rather, the government machinery should become a tool for facilitating governance.
To the political parties: Policy proposals by party candidates need careful consideration to ensure effective implementation. Policies should not merely serve as vote-getting tools, and candidates should not deceive voters with false promises. I have seen policy proposals from candidates both online and on the streets, such as raising the minimum wage to 25,000 Thai baht per month and offering allowances of 1,200 to 5,000 Thai baht per month for children and the elderly. These policies sound appealing, but some candidates haven’t explained how they will be implemented, the process, and potential impact, especially financially. If the funding sources are unclear, these policies will not be feasible. As a reference, the Thai government’s total budget for 2023 is 3.18 trillion Thai baht, while Taiwan, with only one-third of Thailand’s population, has a budget of around 3 trillion Thai baht for 2023. If Thai politicians propose so many policies without sufficient financial resources to implement them, wouldn’t democratic elections become a competition of tall tales?
To the citizens: Regardless of whether you’re wealthy or an ordinary citizen, regardless of your education or social experience, as long as you meet the age requirement and possess civil rights, you have the right to vote. Every vote is equal in value and of great importance. Therefore, Thai citizens with the right to vote play a crucial role. But please think carefully and seriously about each candidate and their policies before casting your vote. After all, the quality of citizens reflects the quality of the government. Thus, the type of citizens determines the type of government.
As a foreigner who has been doing business in Thailand for over ten years, Chit Lee believes the Thai government’s attitude towards foreign investments is generally friendly, but there is still room for improvement. He says, “For instance, improvements in administrative systems and civil service efficiency are vital. Economic-related laws, such as corporate law and labor law, should be revisited and adjusted in line with current trends, so that laws and administrative procedures can keep up with the times.” Regarding his expectations for the new Thai government, Lee lists the following five:
- Avoid corruption and earnestly plan and execute policies;
- Public servants should not make life difficult for the people in various ways;
- Efforts should be made to propose long-term solutions, rather than merely appeasing the people or treating the symptoms instead of the root causes;
- Commit to openness and transparency. Although the Thai government has promoted OpenGov, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The people should have open channels to understand the operation and achievements of the government;
- Be a government of integrity that is willing to assume political responsibility. Don’t resort to the law or control the media to suppress speech when problems arise.