In 2007, the military regime put in place by the 2006 coup came up with the notion that the draft 2007 constitution be put to a referendum. They did this because they knew that the military’s constitution lacked legitimacy. That effort involved intimidation, arrests and a heavy and blunt use of the military to demand a Yes vote. It was that illegitimate process that gave birth to the 2007 charter.
For PPT, the idea of putting a 309 article constitution to a yes/no vote is a simpleton’s approach to legitimacy and “participation.” Of course, the latter was lacking in 2006-7 and has been again in The Dictator’s constitution because the aged royalists who run Thailand know that they know what is best for the country and its people.
After having ditched its first effort, the military dictatorship’s second charter drafting is exercise is “almost finished.” The draft is said to be likely ready by the end of January. Three stories at The Nation newspaper suggest that the campaign to get a favorable referendum vote for the next military constitution is underway. It involves carrots and sticks.
The first story at The Nation involves the junta’s repressive populism. In late December, the junta decided on a 15,000 baht tax deduction, estimated to cost the state 5 billion baht, as a sop to the middle class. At the time we reckoned that the long list of populist giveaways and reductions would cost at least 15 billion baht.
The junta’s spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd “estimates that more than Bt15 billion was spent in the last week of 2015, with a sudden rush of money outlaid on certain products and services because of a tax deduction.” That estimate is based on one million taxpayers spending the whole 15,000 baht. Sansern states that the tax deduction “is considered a success.”
No doubt it has increased consumption. It has also been good for regenerating middle class support for the regime and the upcoming referendum. Sansern states that the junta’s “economic team would come up with more similar stimulus measures.”
The second story is about the draft constitution. Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission, has warned that “people who try to distort the charter draft should be held responsible if it fails to pass the referendum.”
Meechai’s view is that the draft is just wonderful, and that it will only be defeated by unnamed “people causing a misunderstanding among voters through distorted claims.”
“That’s the answer you will get from the drafters. The drafters are writing the new constitution as best as our intelligence permits,” he said.
Meechai declared that the new charter “would have a mechanism that could help prevent violent street protests, which were blamed for political unrest in the past.” He also revealed that, despite earlier assurances, “the charter would require an organisation to be set up that has the power to make rulings aimed at preventing political crises.” And, he promised that the “new constitution would also have a mechanism that helps prevent corruption in a concrete way…. He said people convicted of graft or electoral fraud would be banned from contesting an election for life.” Life bans would also be in place for office holders committing “fraud.” Such measures were “aimed at purifying the politics.”
Meechai said “the people” would be permitted to participate in politics in three ways: the “right to be informed and comment on the government’s important policies”; they would “be permitted to take part in selecting government members;” and they “would also be able to apply to be selected as senators without having to get involved with a political party.”
Obviously, “participation” is to be limited for the lower ranks in society, moving the balance to the minority who inhabit the “good people” elite.
Meechai and the junta won’t have much good news to sell in a referendum. Blunter instruments will be required.
The third story at The Nation has a sometime befuddling account of constitution drafters stating that the CDC “will not reject a military offer to help spread the content of the new charter draft” but that the decision on this lies with the junta. The drafters agree that “the dissemination of the draft and explaining it to the public needed a collaborative approach from many sectors including the involvement of the military.” One stated that “the CDC could not discriminate against the military by barring the Army from the process.”
As they did in 2007, it is clear that the military and intelligence agencies will play a significant role in propagandizing for the junta’s charter.
The usual anti-democrat nonsense about the capacity of voters is reproduced. The “target audience will be civil servants” for the initial dissemination of the draft and feedback. The supportive, anti-democratic and better educated will be targeted with “social media for the middle class.” However, for the lower classes who in the anti-democrat lexicon are “ignorant” and “stupid,” dissemination will “use media methods to make it easier for labourers and farmers to better understand the draft…”. They mean comics and cartoons.
Presumably, for the majority, cartoons and comics will be followed with military thugs.