The military junta sees the constitutional referendum as a show of support for it, whether achieved through “popularity” or through repression.
EurActive.com notes that Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk says that “[w]ith under two weeks to go to Thailand’s crucial 7 August referendum on a new constitution, supposedly paving the way to a return to democracy, the ruling military junta in Bangkok has cracked down on dissent and press freedoms, making a free and fair vote impossible…”.
PPT has been saying that from the beginning.
Sunai is interviewed in this article. Among other things he says, are (our selections):
Thailand has faced a deepening human rights crisis since the May 2014 military coup.
Military courts are regularly used to try civilians, particularly political dissidents and alleged offenders of the ‘lese majeste’ (insulting the monarchy) laws. Under Thailand’s interim constitution, the junta operates with total impunity for human rights violations and without any effective oversight.
Thailand’s security forces have committed serious human rights violations with impunity. No officials, commanders, soldiers, or police have been punished for unlawful killings or other wrongful use of force during the 2010 political confrontations….
The junta’s intolerance for opposition to the draft constitution raises concerns of heightened repression prior to the referendum. The junta has broadly and arbitrarily interpreted peaceful criticism and dissenting opinion to be “false information” and a threat to national security.
The constitutional referendum is essentially an attempt to reaffirm the military’s domination of political power.
… General Prayuth said that opponents of the draft constiution “have no rights to say that they disagree… I don’t allow anyone to debate or hold a press conference about the draft constitution. Yet they still disobey my orders. They will be arrested and jailed for ten years. No one will be exempted when the Referendum Act becomes effective. Not even the media.”
As the junta expects the Thai people to just shut up, obey their orders, and approve their draft constitution that will prolong military rule, the conditions for the upcoming referendum make for a free and fair plebiscite impossible.