Vic­tory for gen­er­als as junta char­ter ap­proved

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THAI­LAND voted to ap­prove a jun­tascripted con­sti­tu­tion, pre­lim­i­nary re­sults showed, in a boost to the army’s po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions and a body blow to the coun­try’s stut­ter­ing pro-democ­racy move­ment.

The mil­i­tary says its new con­sti­tu­tion will curb en­demic po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion, bring sta­bil­ity af­ter years of un­rest and pave the way for a gen­eral elec­tion next year.

But crit­ics say it aims to neuter civil­ian politi­cians and in­tro­duce a teth­ered democ­racy un­der the stew­ard­ship of the mil­i­tary and its roy­al­ist al­lies.

Un­of­fi­cial re­sults re­leased by the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion showed 61.4 per­cent of the coun­try backed the doc­u­ment, with 38.6pc vot­ing “no”.

Au­thor­i­ties gave a sub­dued turnout es­ti­mate of 55pc of Thai­land’s 50.2 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers, af­ter a poll run-up that saw in­de­pen­dent cam­paign­ing and open de­bate barred. Of­fi­cial re­sults will be re­leased to­mor­row.

The Au­gust 7 ref­er­en­dum was the first time Thais have been able to go to the polls since for­mer army chief Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha top­pled the elected gov­ern­ment of Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra in 2014.

The king­dom is split af­ter a decade of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil that has dam­aged growth, seen democ­racy shunted aside and left scores dead in ri­val street protests.

Tri­umphant junta leader Mr Prayut, who has strug­gled for two years to con­vince many Thais of his abil­ity to unite the coun­try, swiftly hailed the win as step to­ward “a bona fide democ­racy” free from graft.

In a terse mes­sage re­leased through the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice, he also hit out at “in­ter­fer­ence by for­eign el­e­ments” us­ing “ma­li­cious in­tent”, with­out nam­ing the par­ties.

The United States, the Euro­pean Union and the United Na­tions all crit­i­cised the bar on de­bate and cam­paign­ing in the lead-up to the polls.

Pro-democ­racy so­cial me­dia users were quick to lament a re­sult that kicks back as­pi­ra­tions of a re­turn to full civil­ian rule.

A Twit­ter han­dle called RIP_Thai­land said, “RIP democ­racy, com­pletely step­ping into army dic­ta­tor­ship”.

But Jatu­porn Prompan, leader of the anti-junta Red Shirt move­ment, struck a de­fi­ant note.

“I want to tell Prayut that your vic­tory is noth­ing to be proud of as your op­po­nents had no chance to fight,” he said, re­fer­ring to the ban on cam­paign­ing be­fore the vote.

The pre­lim­i­nary re­sults il­lus­trated the king­dom’s ge­o­graphic di­vide.

Only the im­pov­er­ished, ru­ral north­east – a re­gion that has voted in droves for suc­ces­sive Shi­nawa­tra gov­ern­ments – and the deep south – hit by a Mus­lim in­sur­gency – voted against the char­ter.

But mil­lions came out in favour of the mil­i­tary’s char­ter, es­pe­cially in the cap­i­tal and the south. –

Photo: AFP

A mem­ber of the New Democ­racy party cry­ing af­ter the ‘Yes’ vic­tory in the Con­sti­tu­tional Ref­er­en­dum at Tham­masat Univer­sity on Aug 7.

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