Thailand: Draft constitution creates more problems than solutions, new report says

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(Paris, Bangkok) Thailand’s draft constitution and upcoming referendum are products of a repressive process that could lead to further political instability, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said in a new report published today.

On 7 August 2016, Thai citizens will vote in a referendum that will decide whether the draft constitution backed by Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will become the country’s 20th charter since 1932.

The FIDH/UCL report, titled “Roadblock to democracy - Military repression and Thailand’s draft constitution", documents the oppressive environment in which the NCPO orchestrated the constitution drafting process and analyzes the most problematic and regressive provisions of the draft charter. Based on this analysis, the report concludes that if the draft is approved in the referendum, the constitution is likely to fuel further political instability because it gives more power to politicized and undemocratic institutions while considerably weakening the power of future elected governments.

“The NCPO’s manipulation of the constitution drafting process is reflected in a document that legitimizes the influence of the military and unelected elites over Thailand’s political system. The NCPO’s heavy-handed actions in silencing criticism of the draft charter will result in the vote having zero credibility if the draft is approved.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

In the months leading up to the referendum, authorities used decrees issued by the NCPO and repressive legislation to harass, detain, and prosecute critics of the draft constitution. From 27 April to 24 July 2016, authorities arbitrarily detained at least 41 people for criticizing or campaigning against the draft constitution. Authorities also detained at least 38 members of the anti-establishment United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) in connection with the group’s attempts to establish referendum monitoring centers.

In addition, police and military personnel regularly attended and monitored public discussions on the draft constitution. In many cases, authorities ordered organizers to cancel seminars and panel discussions on the draft charter. In others instances, authorities intimidated meeting participants.

While authorities continued to stifle public debate on the draft constitution, the NCPO mobilized considerable resources to promote the draft charter. Despite the requirement that key institutions involved in the preparation of the referendum be fair and impartial, their campaign to publicize the draft constitution lacked political balance and was marred by double standards and bias. Finally, the NCPO’s refusal to allow independent observers to freely monitor the referendum casts further doubts over the fairness of the process.

“The referendum is a win-win situation for the the military junta. If the draft constitution is accepted, the NCPO will use it to legitimize its influence over Thai politics. If it’s rejected, the junta will have an excuse to continue its absolute rule over Thai society and further delay the return of power to a civilian, democratically elected government.”

Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn, UCL Chairman

Download Roadblock to democracy - Military repression and Thailand’s draft constitution

Press contact: Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33672284294 (Paris) -
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