Against the draft charter

15 02 2016

Pongsak Chan-On is described in a Khaosod report as a “veteran elections observer.” He is said to have spent 14 years monitoring elections in Thailand and another 26 countries.

He is reported as stating something like “[t]here’s still time to ensure the public referendum on the junta-sponsored draft charter slated for July will be free and fair if the military regime opens the debate to both sides…”.

The “coordinator of Bangkok-based election monitoring group We Watch and international observer for the Asian Network for Free Elections” states:

If you don’t ensure that there’s a participatory environment and freedom of expression [for or against the charter draft], then it cannot be called free and fair…. If it’s not free and fair, then the results cannot be trusted.

That’s true but also a very narrow perspective. The draft charter emanates from an anti-democratic campaign, a military coup and 18 months of repression and is the result of a process managed, prompted, tutored and dictated by the military junta. The junta has already banned discussion of the coup except when it organizes it and has promised that the military will actively campaign on the draft. The junta will be in position before, during and after the referendum. Only those who drafted the charter or ordered its drafting seem to like it.

Vote NoAs well as closing a discussion by WeMove, twice, on Sunday, “police ordered a group of seven opposed to the draft charter to stop distributing stickers urging rejection of the charter inside a McDonald’s next to Bangkok’s Democracy Monument.”

Why vote on such a flawed process and charter? Unless it is a surrogate referendum on the junta itself.

Pongsak observed:

They [the junta] think Thai people must be dumb. Such a process looks down on its own people. But there’s still time to change and let people listen to other voices as well if this government is truly sincere…. What’s the point of having a referendum if people have no participation in the drafting process and there’s no freedom of expression. It would be like ugly coercion. Do they think the international community is dumb too?

The veteran observer seems to misunderstand the nature of the junta and its task.

Okay, we understand that he’s poking and prompting the beast for the middle class activists who are beginning to become uncomfortable (again) with a regime they asked for. He’s pleading for the middle class to be trusted. Again, while we appreciate his liberal message, he’s directing it to authoritarians who are deaf to liberal ideas.



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