Several international newspapers have run backgrounders on the military’s referendum.
One question The Guardian asked is: Why has the draft constitution proven so controversial?
Having taken power after a 2014 coup, Thailand’s interim, military-backed National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has presented a constitutional referendum as a major step on their roadmap to “fully-functioning democracy”.
It claims the new constitution will enhance the ability of the next Government to fight against corruption while ensuring the NCPO’s current program of reforms will not be cut short. However, rights groups say the constitution extends too much power to the unelected NCPO, meaning their influence would remain well past their interim tenure.”
The CFR agrees, stating:
The charter is designed, in many ways, to undermine Thailand’s democratic institutions, preserve the power of the armed forces and other unelected institutions, and ensure that either the military or pro-military parties are in power whenever Thailand goes through a royal succession.
The point is that the military intends to run Thailand for years to come, either directly or through puppets.
Another question is: “How has campaigning been going?”
The answer: “Officially, campaigning for the referendum has been banned. The reality, however, has been a targeted suppression of ‘No’ campaigners.”
That is accurate. The junta has ensured that, through its intense repression, the referendum has no legitimacy.
The CFR article agrees, stating: “To make it as likely as possible that the charter passes, the junta has essentially banned all critical public discussion of the proposed constitution.” It adds: “The junta also has dispatched squads of army cadets across the country to encourage Thais to vote yes on the constitution.”
On succession, the CFR states:
Thailand now exists in a state of fear, with many royalists worried that the period after Bhumibhol’s passing will usher in civil conflict, since Thais will reject the next king, or the next king will prove so unstable that he will destabilize the entire country.
The CFR comments on potential referendum fraud:
Though there may be some fraud, the actual voting will likely be relatively free and fair; there is little evidence to suggest that the coup government plans to blatantly rig the polls on August 7.
We are not convinced. This junta has done much that no sane person would have expected. Fixing the result is not beyond the military dictatorship.