Yingluck: Junta poll win a step backward
A REFERENDUM victory for Thailand’s ruling generals over a new constitution is a “backwards” step for the country, the toppled ex-prime minister said as the democracy movement reels from its first polls defeat in a decade.
The bitterly divided kingdom has been ruled by a junta for two years since Yingluck Shinawatra’s government was booted from office.
The majority “yes” vote in support of the charter was the first test of public opinion since the 2014 coup, although independent campaigning and open debate was stifled ahead of the polls.
The draft was heavily criticised in the run-up to the poll, for clauses that embed military power and straitjacket the role of elected officials.
But the August 7 vote lends legitimacy to a junta that says it alone can stabilise Thailand and detoxify politics after a decade of turmoil.
Unofficial results released by the Election Commission showed 61.4 percent of the country backed the document, with 38.6pc voting “no”. At under 55pc, turnout was modest.
But it was enough to land a hammer blow on the nation’s pro-democracy movement, which since 2006 has been winded by two coups, court rulings and a bloody military crackdown.
“With this new constitution in place, the country has moved backwards and away from the path towards democracy,” Ms Yingluck said in Bangkok.
The vote was “not up to international standards because it was not free and fair”, she added.
In Washington, the United States expressed concern after Thailand approved the new military-backed constitution in a victory for the country’s ruling generals.
US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said the US remains “concerned that the drafting process for the constitution was not inclusive, that open debate was not permitted in the run up to its adoption”.
“We urge Thai authorities to proceed with next steps to return Thailand to elected civilian-led government as soon as possible,” she said.
Yingluck Shinawatra has criticised Thailand’s new constitution.