It has always been clear that the referendum on the military’s draft charter has been carefully stage-managed by the junta.
The junta hand-picked the Constitution Drafting Committee, stacking it with conservative royalists and military flunkies. The junta directed the drafting of the charter, demanding articles it craved. It has prevented discussion of the draft, except by supporters of the draft. It has even prevented calls for campaigns to be permitted.
There has been little effort by the junta to disguise its efforts to direct the outcome of the referendum.
In other words, the referendum is illegitimate. Yet we can be sure that, if the junta gets its desired result it will claim the referendum as an act of legitimization for the junta and for the charter.
In order to channel voters in its direction, the Bangkok Post has reported that the “regime has set up peace-keeping centres across the country to support the Election Commission’s (EC) handling of the Aug 7 referendum…”.
Not surprisingly, we are not the only ones to see such military centers as “tools of the military regime to manipulate the outcome of the charter vote.”
The move is seen as an attempt to curb growing resistance ahead of the referendum date.
The centers have been established at both provincial and district levels. The regime’s claim is that the the centers “are to prevent incidents that would lead to violence and ensure a clean and fair referendum process…”. The centers will operate from 1 July and continue until after the referendum.
There have not been any signs of “violence,” except by the junta’s own thugs. However, readers will recall that the red shirts were prevented from setting up anti-fraud centers.
The true nature of the centers is revealed when the junta states that they will be “monitoring situations, setting up security checkpoints, gathering intelligence on activities that may violate the referendum law and enforcing order at public demonstrations…”.
In other words, the centers will repress opponents and intimidate voters.
Update 1: Khaosod reports that the junta’s efforts to determine its desired result for the referendum extends to an attempt to blackout opposition media. Using its “laws,” the junta is reportedly about to close red shirt Peace TV from 10 July. Conveniently, “[t]hat would keep the station off the air until after the Aug. 7 charter referendum.”
Update 2: Prachatai reports that the “Administrative Court has provided the red-shirt TV station with a legal immunity allowing the station to continue broadcasting after the station’s licence was recently revoked for breaching the junta’s announcements.”