Two Groups Opposed to Charter Undecided on Accepting Referendum Results

Opponents of the junta-backed constitution draft on Sunday do a 'Vote No' gesture at Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — With just two weeks to go before the charter referendum, some of its opponents say they’ve yet to decide whether to accept the outcome.

Despite calls by high-profile and ostensibly neutral parties for the public to unconditionally respect the results of the Aug. 7 vote, pro-democracy activists opposed to the charter said they’re worried about legitimizing the process or possible misconduct.

“If we accept the results [in advance] and there’s cheating, what will we do?” said Rangsiman Rome, a student leader of the New Democracy Movement, whose members have been arrested and charged for campaigning against the proposed constitution written under military oversight.

“We can fully say that the situation so far was not fair, however. …The situation so far is like cheating,” he said. Rangsiman said the group will meet to decide a stance on whether to unconditionally accept the outcome before it happens on Aug. 7.

Last week a group led by former Election Commissioner Gothom Arya issued a call supported by politicians from both sides, including Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, for the public to accept the results of the referendum so long as three conditions are met.

The group, called Platform of Concerned Citizens, said the junta must allow people to freely debate the merits of the charter, clearly define what will happen if the public rejects it and open the process of writing a third draft up to be inclusive should it go down in defeat.

The present draft, presented by the junta as an aegis against corruption, was written by drafters all selected by junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. Critics say it undoes democratic principles and legitimizes ongoing military rule.

Another high-profile activist group of pro-democracy undergraduate students at Thammasat University has also refused to spell out its position.

Worayut Moolsert, a 21-year-old member of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, the group behind the recent #FreeDollsForFreedom campaign, said they also haven’t decided the matter yet. What’s more, he said their two dozen or so members have yet to agree on whether to support voting no or boycotting the poll entirely in a rejection of its legitimacy.

If they decide to boycott, the group will not endorse the referendum results no matter what they are.

“We can point out now, however, as to how the environment is neither free nor fair,” said Worayut, a senior political science student.

Those calling for a boycott of  the referendum have already taken a clear stance they will disregard its outcome.

“Our group doesn’t just reject the charter draft, but we reject the whole process,” said Jitra Kotchadej, advisor to the Democracy Force Party, a small registered socialist political party with just more than 100 members.

Jitra noted however that, beyond the use of social media, the group hasn’t really campaigned for their boycott due to the Referendum Act, which forbids doing so with a serious punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

“We will wait after the referendum to say what we want,” Jitra said. “The situation now is risky because the punishment is heavy for those campaigning.”