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Rival camps in last-ditch efforts to influence voters

national August 05, 2016 01:00

By THE NATION

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Suthep says critics seek to topple NCPO; Pheu Thai reiterates charter violates basic human rights



WITH ONLY two days left before Sunday’s referendum, both supporters and opponents of the draft constitution yesterday were making their final attempts to sway voters.
Suthep Thaugsuban, a politician-turned-political activist, warned that supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra were campaigning against the draft in order to use the results as a justification for a rally aimed at ousting the post-coup government.
“They are so arrogant. They announced that if the draft constitution fails to pass the referendum on August 7, they would come out to oust Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] on grounds of a lack of legitimacy,” Suthep said. 
“Those people have a plot to keep causing confusion in the country. It’s because they want to return to power.”
Also yesterday, the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party issued another statement reiterating that the party was against both the draft constitution and the additional question proposed by the National Legislative Assembly.
The party warned that the draft charter could lead to a new political crisis because its clauses made it “very difficult or almost impossible” to amend the new constitution.
The additional question asks voters if selected senators should be allowed to join elected MPs in the selection the new prime minister in the five years after the new constitution takes effect.
There has also been a campaign urging a low voter turnout with the goal of undermining the government’s legitimacy.
Prayut, who also heads the NCPO, said yesterday that a serious incident was unlikely to happen in the few days remaining before the vote or on polling day. He was responding to warnings by foreign embassies in Thailand for their nationals to take extra precautions over the next few days.
“Don’t worry. The military will take care of this,” he said. 
Suthep, in his daily Facebook Live broadcast, said yesterday that although Thaksin cannot vote this Sunday because he is living in exile overseas, the former prime minister had announced his rejection of the draft charter.
“That was intended as a signal for his followers to use every means to overthrow the draft. People in the Thaksin regime are doing everything to have the draft constitution rejected,” he said.
Suthep is the former secretary-general of the Democrat Party and now chairman of the People’s Democratic Reform Foundation.
The political veteran announced yesterday that he would vote “yes” for the charter and the referendum question “to make sure that unqualified people will be unable to become prime minister in the reform era of the country”.
According to Suthep, the draft charter contains provisions that will enforce lifelong political bans for 
 people convicted of corruption, preventing them from contesting elections and becoming prime minister. 
“Those people will stand to lose because of those provisions in the draft constitution,” he said.
In a seven-point statement, Pheu Thai said the draft charter was written after a military coup and without public participation, which meant it lacks legitimacy. Also, many of its provisions fail to respect people’s basic rights, the party said.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) yesterday held a nationwide “Big Day” campaign at the Royal Plaza to encourage voters to cast their ballots in the referendum. The “home stretch” campaign was launched in a last-ditch effort to encourage a large turnout. 
EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said that the EC offices in Bangkok and the provinces are united in the campaign to raise voters’ awareness of their rights.
The EC oversees 94,000 polling stations nationwide with almost 1 million election officials.
Supachai said vote results would be known by 8pm on Sunday.
In Bangkok, caravans and processions paraded through the streets of 50 districts in the capital. Several brightly decorated tuk-tuks took part in the parade while singers and actors performed, joined by 2,000 reserve officer training corps students.
Television stations broadcast about the various activities in Bangkok and in major cities such as Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Songkhla, Pattani and Chon Buri.
In a related development, a group called “Citizens Who Reject the Referendum That Is Not Free and Fair” yesterday submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission asserting their right to reject the outcome of the referendum.
 

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