BANGKOK — Furious Redshirt leaders told the United Nations yesterday the military government violated their rights by shutting down their referendum monitoring operation.
The recent crackdown in which soldiers shut down several monitoring offices was seen by junta critics as evidence the Aug. 7 vote on the charter draft will not be transparent, as authorities insisted the public cannot act as observers for potential fraud.
Redshirt leader Nattawut Saikua said he delivered his petition Monday to the U.N. offices in Bangkok to draw international attention to the ongoing abuse of power in Thailand.
“The U.N. has been attentive in following the human rights situation in Thailand,” Nattawut said after meeting representatives of the agency at its headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Road.
Earlier this month the official Redshirt organization, the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, announced it would open “fraud watchdog centers” across the country to field complaints and dispatch monitors to observe the polls. The public will vote Aug. 7 to accept or reject the new constitution, which was drafted by a junta-appointed body.
The security force responded Sunday by raiding and closing down the centers, including one in Bangkok’s Imperial World shopping mall and others in Korat, Nakhon Phanom and Lampang provinces.
Government officials said there are already state agencies looking out for fraud, such as the Election Commission.
“We are not prohibiting them from inspecting [the referendum]. But don’t organize that kind of center, because there’s already the Election Commission to do that,” deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said. “I want them to cooperate with the Election Commission, instead.”
The Election Commission is a nominally independent agency, but Redshirts have long accused it of harboring a bias. Since the 2014 coup, commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn has actively pursued legal action against activists opposed to the military government.
Apart from shutting down the Redshirt monitoring centers, junta critics say the referendum is fraught with excessive restrictions such as a ban on campaigning for or against the charter, or staging debates without official sanction.
Redshirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said he suspects that the military government is creating so many restrictions because it fears the charter will be defeated.
“The powers that be see our Anti-Fraud Centers as a problem because they already know the result,” Jatuporn said Sunday. “They know what’s going to happen if they let the referendum go on. People who think they will win wouldn’t be acting like this. This is the behavior of people afraid they will lose.”