In an editorial, the Bangkok Post seems confused.
For a start, for no apparent reason and seemingly forgetting almost all of the past two years since the coup, the editorial seems surprised that The Dictator, General and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared red shirt referendum centers “illegal” after earlier “pledg[ing] to stay clear of the debate on the national referendum on the draft constitution.”
The editorial writer must be the only person in Thailand to have believed this malarkey. After all, this is Bizarro World, where only the ridiculous believe the notion that the referendum is some kind of apolitical exercise. To even consider this as a possibility is quite ridiculous but also gives the military dictatorship support and succor.
The Dictator was never, ever, going to allow red shirts to become active again.
The editorial then attributes sinister motives to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), alleging that it “clearly believes it has found a way to resume political hostilities…”. The Post writer seems to forget that political conflict has involved more than red shirts, although it is they who have lost most in recent years.
The Post editorial writer also seems to forget that the newspaper’s own pages have been covering the extensive debate and conflict involved in another referendum – on Britain’s EU membership – and might ask why Thailand’s referendum is so very different.
The editorial is a bit closer to being on track when it notes that even the date for the referendum remains “tentative” and that the Election Commission has done nothing “to promote the referendum and ensure a large turnout have been lacking. Millions of Thais on the EC’s mailing list for voter information have yet to receive any information.”
“Lacking” is a euphemism for “nothing at all.” Yet the EC has been active. It has been acting for the junta in policing the referendum, assisting it in ensuring that there is no discussion and debate.
The editorial is right to observe that the junta is relentless in closing down discussion, not allowing “any discussion of the draft charter unless approved by the EC — which has approved nothing so far.” Yet the editorial then expresses surprise: “Less comprehensible, however, is why the EC is effectively inhibiting any campaign at all, even simple information campaigns.”
The writer is well aware that the EC works for the junta and that the junta wants a Yes vote and nothing else, stating:
There is more than a bit of truth to the UDD’s overall concern about cheating in the referendum. The Referendum Act, and Gen Prayut, have decreed the first ban in Thai history on poll monitors. Until right now, this country and every regime, including the worst military dictators, have welcome or at least allowed domestic and foreign groups to observe election campaigns, as well as activities at the polls and vote-counting centres….
The very structure of the planned referendum, along with the vague and even intimidating control by the EC, is causing suspicion. The UDD has politicised the referendum campaign for now, but it should be noted that the government and the EC cast the first stone by trying to restrict natural public discussion of a vitally important national issue.
Despite this admission, the Post seems to still be betting on the junta it supported in coming to power.
Accusing the UDD of “obstinacy,” apparently for wanting information, debate and politicking that is not all the junta’s narrative, the Post editorial meekly requests that the military dictatorship “should consider how to enlarge the public’s participation in the referendum campaign. The vote on the draft charter won’t be fair unless there are regional and national debates, with all opinions considered.”
The Post appears to be groveling. Yet the junta is unlikely to oblige. The military boot is firmly on the neck of the referendum and no debate, discussion or anything else that is not junta-managed is out of the question.