BANGKOK - A referendum victory for Thailand's ruling generals over a new constitution is a "backwards" step for the country, the toppled ex-premier said Monday as the democracy movement reels from its first poll 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 2014 coup, although independent campaigning and open debate was stifled ahead of the polls.
The vote lends legitimacy to a junta that says it alone can stabilise Thailand and detoxify politics after a decade of turmoil.
It also lands 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.
Unofficial results released by the Election Commission showed 61.4 per cent of the country backed the document, with 38.6 per cent voting 'no'.
The turnout was just under 55 per cent -- a low number in part due to the ban on campaining.
"I accept the decision of the people," Yingluck said in a social media post, in her first reaction to Sunday's poll, adding she was "not surprised" at the result due to the bar on debating the document.
"I am saddened by the fact that our country is going backwards to an undemocratic constitution," she added.