Only about 100 non-Banglamung District natives were expected to take advantage of early local voting for July’s general election, leaving others not originally from this area no choice but to return home to cast ballots for new parliament members.
Deputy District Chief Amnat Charoensri opened two weeks of early-voting registration May 19 at the Banglamung government office. He said 43 people arrived the first day to register, but he expected only about 100 to come in before registration closed June 2.
Only 43 people arrived at the Banglamung offices the first day to register for absentee ballots.
Voting is legally mandated in Thailand but, unlike many western countries, ballots can only be cast in the village the voter calls his legal residence. In Pattaya, where only about 150,000 Thais are legally registered, each election means that 300,000 people or more must either not vote, leave town or take advantage of special pre-voting privileges in order to cast a ballot.
The fact that so few people take advantage of the system has led to questions whether the government is doing enough to educate people about the voting process.
Amnat said people registered in other districts, including those who moved to the Pattaya area within the past 90 days, are eligible to vote a week before the July 3 general election.
Parties on both sides of the political divide have criticized the advance-vote process, claiming it makes it easier for rivals to hide vote-buying. They say unscrupulous politicians can buy votes and not get caught in any misdeeds in the affected far-away districts.