Critics: Keeping Public in Dark About Draft Charter Rejection Unfair

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha splashes water on the media on April 12 to mark Thai New Year at Government House

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer

BANGKOK — It’s unfair for the junta not to tell the public what Thailand will get if the draft charter gets voted down, say critics. Some add that this is a psychological tactic to persuade the public to opt for the known quantity, which is the charter draft. Critics differ on whether this constitutes as a shrewd move by the junta or not.

The reactions come after junta-leader-cum-Prime-Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha declined on Monday to spell out what will happen if the charter is rejected in the Aug. 7 referendum. Prayuth said he has the power to decide what to do.

“Do you understand the word ‘power’? It’s I who will decide what to do,” Prayuth was quoted as saying as calls grow for the self-styled National Council for Peace and Order to reveal what will happen if the charter fails to win public support.

 Former election commissioner Gothom Arya calls such a condition unjust.

“It’s not fair,” said Gothom. “Prayuth cited his right [to invoke his power] but I can cite my democratic right too.”

Gothom said Prayuth wins whether the charter draft is endorsed or rejected because he holds the power to decide what to do afterward. “It’s a win-win game for him. Doing it this way is not fair and all I can do is to plead [Prayuth to rethink]”.

Rangsiman Rome, a key member of the New Democracy Movement, said the referendum is never going to be free and fair and called the condition a psychological tactic employed to convince voters to stick to the draft charter instead of something unknown that could be even worse and less democratic.

“They don’t tell us [what we will get] because they want us to Vote Yes,” said Rangsiman, whose group continued to push for a “Vote No” campaign.

Rangsiman warned however that given this unfair process, the junta risked losing “legitimacy” if the draft charter gets rejected in a landslide. “What legitimacy will they have left?”

Election observer Pongsak Chanon, chairman of We Watch, a group of Thai election observers, also said it’s unfair for Prayuth not to come clean on the matter.

“It’s not fair. It affects voters psychologically and there’s a tendency that they will just accept what they can see.”

Anti-junta activist and Red Sunday Group leader Sombat Boonngam-anong concurred with others, saying it’s unfair and not transparent.

“This is not a personal matter but a public affair so it should be made transparent,” Sombat said.

Sombat said the junta wishes to maintain a political edge by not telling the public what will happen next.

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