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80,000 people paid to join govt rally, TRT leader claims

Central villagers given Bt100-300 to march in Bangkok, Kuthep says

Published on August 14, 2007

80,000 people paid to join govt rally, TRT leader claims

Thousands march from the Royal Plaza to Democracy Monument yesterday morning, encouraging people to vote in the referendum this Sunday.

The government paid more than 80,000 people from the Central provinces to join a rally urging voters to cast a ballot in the referendum on Sunday, a key member of the Thai Rak Thai group alleged yesterday.

Kuthep Saikrajang said the government had paid people between Bt100 and Bt300 each to join the rally from the Royal Plaza to Democracy Monument yesterday morning. He said the disbanded party was in no way involved in this move to buy votes, but had become a victim of defamation.

"Thai Rak Thai has campaigned for the rejection of the charter by spelling out its reasons in speeches, but the authorities have been coercing voters to cast a 'yes' ballot," he said, adding that the government had even arranged transport to bring people to Bangkok.

Some government agencies had asked local community leaders to complete a survey about the number of voters in each area, he said. The respondents were also asked to predict the percentage of yes and no votes.

He claimed the government could easily cheat on the result by referring to the survey results as the real turnout on August 19.

Kuthep said he would talk about the issue if TRT is able to hold a rally tomorrow at Sanam Luang to fight the constitution draft. The planned event was in no way linked to the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship, he said.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin said that executives of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Metropolitan Police would meet today to decide whether TRT is permitted to stage the rally at Sanam Luang.

Prasarn Maruekapitak, chairman of the special sub-committee for government public relations, said after a recent visit to the Northeast - through Ubon Ratchathani, Amnat Charoen, Buri Ram and Surin - vote-buying to reject the charter draft was widespread in areas where influence of former key TRT MPs was still strong.

However, he said not many people were entirely under TRT influence because they wanted peace to return to the country.

Political activist Ammarin Yeeheng said that people were being paid between Bt200 and Bt500 to vote against the charter draft or not show up at all in his home province of Sa Kaew.

Another political activist, Samak Donsri, condemned local figures in his home province of Chaiyaphum for urging voters to reject the charter draft.

Kasem Wattanadhama, chairman of the Buri Ram election commission, said local influential figures had seized ID cards of eligible voters, and were either paying them to vote against the charter draft or barring them from casting votes at all.

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