BANGKOK — The U.N. rights chief Monday called on Thailand’s military government to respect the electorate’s right to freely deliberate the proposed constitution before voting whether to adopt it as the law of the land.
In a broader address on the degrading of rights globally and proliferation of hate, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein raised the “paradoxical” suppression of debate on a matter going to public vote in less than two months during the 32nd Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“The people of Thailand have a right to discuss – and to criticize – decisions about their country, and free, fair and dynamic public debate on the draft constitution is vital if the country is to return to sustainable democracy,” Al-Hussein said (3pm Bangkok time) in Geneva.
The Jordanian prince added he is concerned about the increasing use of military courts to try civilians, noting that people who have posted critical comments on the draft constitution have been detained and charged with sedition.
The architect of the referendum, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, challenged the U.N. High Commissioner to be specific about allegations Thai citizens’ rights have been curtailed in deliberating the charter draft.
“Initially, His Excellency should clearly specify what freedom do [Thai] people not have in relation to this referendum? As the organizer, we think people have freedom and are not being curtailed in any way,” he said, adding however that using language deemed “lewd” or encouraging people to vote one way or the other has been criminalized by the military government.
Somchai also allayed concerns expressed by some foreign diplomats the referendum may not take place, saying his commission is prepared to send voter registration letters 15 days prior on July 23.