Thailand’s Junta Cements Control as Voters Approve New Constitution

Thailand’s Junta Cements Control as Voters Approve New Constitution
Government workers at a rally to encourage Thais to vote in the constitutional referendum, Bangkok, Aug. 4, 2016, (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

In what could be described as a self-inflicted wound, Thais voted Sunday to accept an undemocratic constitution in a nationwide referendum. According to the preliminary count collected by the Election Commission, based on 94 percent of the votes cast, 61.4 percent of Thais were in favor of the constitution, while 38.6 percent rejected it. A significant shift in the results isn’t expected with the final, official tally on Aug. 10.

When it is enacted, whether in weeks or months, the constitution will be Thailand’s 20th in 84 years—the last was dissolved in May 2014 following the military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The military junta, which rebranded itself the National Council for Peace and Order and made its leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister, set about creating a new constitution, written by a junta-created committee. The first draft was rejected internally last year. The second draft, unveiled on March 19, was the one that went to the ballot.

Reuters reported that upon hearing the referendum’s preliminary count, tears were shed at the headquarters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), a group formed in 2006 to oppose the previous coup that year that overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother. The UDD’s members, known as Red Shirts, have continued to oppose the current junta.

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