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Referendum will send clear signal to NCPO: rights advocate

Referendum will send clear signal to NCPO: rights advocate

WEDNESDAY, September 02, 2015
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Those who oppose the junta should vote in the upcoming referendum on the draft charter because it is a legitimate, albeit imperfect, way to settle differences, iLaw member Narongsak Niamsorn said. "It's one way to make a move and fight," he pointed out.

Narongsak, who belongs to the NGO advocating legal rights and reform, recently wrote a comparison between the draft charter and previous constitutions. 
He said it would be unfortunate if those against the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) do not participate in the referendum, fearing that if the draft charter is rejected, the NCPO will stay on and restart a new drafting process. 
Some opponents say the lack of real choices in the referendum makes it invalid, and is more a junta-imposed “Catch-22”, as the junta will stay in power no matter what the outcome. 
Narongsak, however, said the outcome of the referendum will send a clear signal to the NCPO. 
“If the draft charter is rejected [in the referendum], it will have a considerable impact because despite many limitations imposed [on civic rights], the result of the referendum can still be negative. If the charter is rejected, and the NCPO remains in power, the redrafting of a new charter won’t be easy and political groups would be more visible and legitimate. Also the referendum will have proven that the majority does not approve. 
“This will pile immense pressure on the NCPO. How can they stay once their legitimacy has been reduced?”
Though he wouldn’t reveal which way he would vote, he insisted that opponents of the junta should participate. “Sure it won’t be a real referendum,” he said, referring to the absence of a real choice if the draft is rejected, “but it will be a way to make the voices of opponents heard”. 
Narongsak said the government should ensure that people can freely air their support or opposition to the draft charter if they want the referendum to be accepted as legitimate, and should stop threatening to prosecute those who campaign against it. 
In case the draft is endorsed in the referendum, Narongsak said it would become Thailand’s 20th constitution, but it is not likely to be the last, because the drafting process lacked public participation and people don’t feel they own it. 
He predicted that those who disagree with the draft charter will later try to have it amended, and warned that items, such as inclusion of the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee (NSRRC), would cause conflicts in the future. He is among those who consider the NSRRC undemocratic. 
“It has regressive elements that are not found anywhere else,” he said, referring to the NSRRC, which is dubbed by opponents as a “superboard” that can override the authority of an elected government when it sees the existence of a crisis. 
He said he was very surprised by the inclusion of the NSRRC in the draft charter, because there has been no history of a legal body having power over an elected government being enshrined in a charter. 
“[The NSRRC] can do anything. It’s like enshrining the junta into the constitution,” Narongsak said.