There’s now less than a week to go before the junta’s referendum on the military’s draft charter. Repression and limits on information are the order of the day,
The Bangkok Post editorializes that “discussion is becoming more open, and several leading voices have stated their preference in no uncertain terms,…”. Adding, however, that they might have “violated the Referendum Act.” And that “voters are short of information, if not outright fact-starved.”
It now says that this shutting down of information “is not a surprise to many. When the draft charter was completed by Meechai Ruchupan’s Constitution Drafting Committee four months ago, it came with harsh conditions.” In fact, back then, “the contents of the draft were not allowed to be put into the public domain.” And, “[a]fter that, the conditions just got tighter.”
The Post goes on to declare that “[t]he 20th attempt at writing a permanent and acceptable supreme law for the nation was hamstrung because of bans on open discussion. Even explanations of the contents could be — and sometimes were — judged harshly enough for arrests and detentions.”
It adds that “dozens … have been detained, arrested and even charged in military courts…”. In fact, the numbers arrested are not known. One recent report suggests mass arrests in the northeast – of thousands – have taken place. Sure, these arrests are said to be of “criminals” and “drug dealers,” but the idea is to create fear and force a Yes vote.
The Post editorial concludes:
If the public rejects this proposed constitution on Sunday, the government must take it as a teaching moment. A third attempt to write an acceptable constitution must involve the public at large. Many commentators have stated this rather obvious fact. Some face prison for saying it. But that doesn’t make it less true. If the vote passes the draft charter, the government must loosen discussion on future political plans.
Our view is that if the military gets its way, gets away with its illegitimate acts, and there is a Yes vote, and anyone suggests that this is an act of legitimacy, then it is a victory for authoritarianism. Not just as it is expressed in an anti-democratic constitution, but for the methods of governing that reflect decades of military repression, reinvigorated.