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Thai election

Prayuth says Thai election was 'orderly' despite criticism

Poll observer claims initial vote counting 'flawed'

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha addresses the press on Tuesday in Bangkok for the first time since the election on Sunday, claiming that the vote was conducted in an orderly fashion. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

BANGKOK -- Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Tuesday said the general election held on Sunday was completed in a "peaceful and orderly manner," despite claims by an election observer that the initial vote count was "flawed."

In a news conference after a cabinet meeting, Prayuth emphasized that he would not be involved in talks to form a coalition government. "That's a matter for the politics side," he said, speaking to media for the first time after the election.

"Now [that] the election is complete, I want us to focus on our important royal ceremony, the coronation [of the King] which will take place starting in April," he added. The royal family commands huge respect in Thailand and it is vital that the coronation of the king takes place under a stable government.

On the eve of the election, King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun urged Thais to support "good people" who will ensure stability, echoing remarks made by his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej 30 years ago.

"As for bad people, we must proceed to take care of them too," said Prayuth, in response to the king's comments during the news conference. He did not elaborate on what he meant.

An international election observer the Asian Network for Free Elections on Tuesday issued an interim report on the election, in which it said it saw "a campaign environment which [was] heavily tilted to benefit the incumbent military junta and the candidates that it supports."

The observer pointed out that "the near absolute powers" granted in the Thai constitution remained in place throughout the electoral process, and that such powers "loomed above the head of the current regime's critics."

It also said: "The subsequent tabulation and consolidation of ballots were deeply flawed, which led to an announcement of some preliminary results that were wildly inaccurate on election night."

Billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit's Future Forward Party, which was expected to grab the third most number of seats in the lower house, demanded detailed poll data from the Election Commission Office on Tuesday.

"The disclosure of data about the voters at each polling unit for public examination is a way to help reduce electoral fraud," said Klaikong Waithayakan, a member of the party.

The Bangkok Post quoted the Open Forum for Democracy, a domestic nongovernmental organization focusing on strengthening democracy and electoral processes, as saying on Sunday that vote-buying was rampant on the eve of the election.

Forum executive Ladawan Tantiwithaypitak said several parties resorted to "money politics." She said people were taken to campaign rallies by car, with each receiving 200 baht ($6.32) to attend and drivers receiving 500 baht. Ladawan said these allegations have been made to the election authority.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, on the run from Thai authorities on charges of corruption, has also criticized the electoral process.

In an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review on Monday, he said the party had benefited "from election rigging, because in some places there were more ballots [cast] than registered votes."

Asia regional correspondent Marwaan Macan-Markar in Bangkok contributed to this story.

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