(FILE) Thai Army Reserve Force volunteer students (R) hold placards as they hand out leaflets for a referendum campaign at a street market near Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, 27 July 2016. The referendum on drafting a new Constitution in Thailand, commissioned by the military junta, is "undemocratic", ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said 04 August. EPA/NARONG SANGNAK
APHR says referendum on new Thai Constitution is 'undemocratic'
Aug. 4, 2016
BANGKOK, AUG 4 (EFE_EPA). — The referendum on drafting a new Constitution in Thailand, commissioned by the military junta, is "undemocratic", ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said on Thursday.
APHR criticized a campaign by the junta that has harassed, arrested and intimidated opponents of the proposal for a new constitution.
Around 50 million Thai people have been called to polls to cast their votes in favor or against the proposed constitution, drafted by a 21member committee elected by the military junta, who have been in power since a coup in May 2014.
"This is not a referendum in any genuine sense of the word. This is not a democratic process," said APHR Malaysian spokesperson Charles Santiago in a statement.
"It's a forced vote at the barrel of a gun following a campaign in which the authorities have sought to actively thwart informed debate," he said.
APHR also condemned the rise in arbitrary arrests and suppression of freedom of expression and assembly by authorities, who have banned the distribution of information that is "aimed at influencing voters" before the vote on Sunday.
More than 100 people have been arrested and are facing charges for actions related to the referendum, including campaigning against the Constitution, to trying to establish monitoring centres to prevent fraud during the voting process.
The military junta says the new Constitution will safeguard against political corruption by giving greater power to the courts and independent agencies, while its detractors argue it will weaken the role of elected officials and strengthen military control over Thailand's politics.
The controversial draft also proposes that the Senate will be appointed entirely by the military junta, which may intervene in the election of the Prime Minister, which, in turn, may not be an elected position.
According to Santiago the referendum is nothing more than an attempt by a nonelected junta to manipulate a democratic process to claim some kind of legitimacy.
"As parliamentarians who believe in democracy and the rule of law, we cannot support this constitution, or Sunday's vote on it. We wish to send a message of solidarity with the Thai people and all those striving to regain basic rights and freedoms in the country," he said.
Meanwhile, military junta leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chanocha has said he will continue in office even if the draft Constitution is rejected at the ballot.
Since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has approved 19 constitutions, almost all of them repealed after military intervention.