Thailand to Vote on Junta-Sponsored Constitution in Referendum


By Anuchit Nguyen

Protesters hold a portrait of former
Prime Minister Thaksin

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) — Thai voters, who gave former Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra a two-thirds parliamentary majority
in 2005, will decide this week whether to approve a new
constitution proposed by the military junta that overthrew him.

About 45 million Thais are eligible to vote in the Aug. 19
referendum. Junta leader Sondhi Boonyarataklin and Prime
Minister Surayud Chulanont have urged the constitution’s passage,
while Thaksin supporters and anti-junta groups have campaigned
for its rejection.

The junta is under pressure to hold elections and restore democracy by the end of 2007 to lessen political uncertainty that has slowed economic growth and damaged consumer and investor confidence. The referendum is the first time voters
will have their say since the Sept. 19 coup. If the draft is rejected, the junta can impose one of Thailand’s past constitutions, which could delay elections indefinitely.

“The most powerful element of the referendum will be a vote for or against the incumbents,” said Malcolm Cook, program director for Asia and the Pacific at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. “The vote will be for the military or Thaksin, not the details of the constitution.”

Thaksin, 58, was Thailand’s first prime minister to win a second consecutive term with his Thai Rak Thai party. While he called and won a snap election in April 2006 to see off opposition to his rule, that vote was annulled on fraud charges and the military ousted him to “restore order.”

Party Disbanded

A military-appointed court this year ruled that Thaksin and his party broke election laws in 2006 and disbanded Thai Rak Thai, banning him and more than 100 of its executives from politics for five years.

“The referendum is a good opportunity for millions of our supporters to let the military dictators know their opposition to the coup,” Chaturon Chaisaeng, one of the banned executives, said in an interview Aug. 3. “The constitution is also a setback for Thailand’s democracy because it will reduce the power of the prime minister and parliamentary members who are directly elected from the Thai people.”

The junta-installed Constitutional Drafting Assembly wants to curb the power of the prime minister because Thaksin and his government abused their authority to prevent investigations by the parliament and other independent agencies, Somkid Lertpaithoon, secretary general of the ssembly, said in an interview Aug. 3.

“Excessive abuse of power by the previous government was the biggest reason for the political crisis we had last year,” said Somkid. “This constitution will help curb that and allow easier investigation of the government.”

Limits on Power

The proposed constitution limits the prime minister to two terms and no more than eight years in office. It also says the prime minister must be an elected member of parliament, a clause designed to ease concerns that the Thai military will hold power after the election, Somkid said.

The draft constitution reduces the number of seats in the House of Representatives to 480 from 500 and makes it easier for opposition parties to file censure motions against the prime minister, requiring a fifth of parliament members, or 96, to endorse the motion. In the previous onstitution, this required two-fifths, or 200 members.

The Senate will be reduced to 150 senators from 200, half of whom will be elected and half appointed by a commission comprising the heads of the constitutional court, election commission and a national anti-corruption commission, according to the proposal. As in the 1997 constitution, the Senate has the power to remove the prime minister and other ministers.

Political Stalemate

Surayud and Sondhi aim to hold an election by the end of December if the constitution is passed.

“It will probably be approved by a slim margin,” said Jade Donavanik, dean of the law school at Siam University in Bangkok. “It’s not because people like the content, but because they are tired of the political stalemate over the past two years and want to move on.”

The new constitution bans the government from selling more than half of shares in utilities such as telephone and power to private investors.

Thailand’s military leaders, who call themselves the Council for National Security, are investigating billionaire Thaksin, his family and members of his former cabinet for alleged violations in project approvals, share sales and other business deals.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at .


Thousands protest against proposed Thai constitution

Photo: AFP
Click to enlarge

BANGKOK (AFP) – Members of Thailand’s former ruling party put on a show of force Wednesday by attracting at least 10,000 people to a central Bangkok plaza to protest against the proposed post-coup constitution.

The rally was organised by the People Power party, whose profile has grown recently after 300 members of Thai Rak Thai (TRT) — the party formed by ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra — joined them.

Thousands of Thaksin supporters clad in shirts declaring “We Vote No” cheered as speakers slammed the junta which seized power in a putsch last year.

The speakers also urged people to vote down a new military-backed charter that goes to the public vote on Sunday.

“The junta ousted the elected government. This means they don’t respect people. How can they write the constitution?” said Sudarat Keyurathan, who was a deputy TRT leader until the party was banned in May.

“This is reason enough to say no to this constitution,” she told the crowd at Sanam Luang plaza, which enthusiastically chanted Thaksin’s name.

The military says the new charter will clear the way for elections by the end of the year, but opponents fear it will provide ways for the army to maintain an influence over government through powerful appointees.

Campaigning is tilted heavily in the government’s favour, with half the country under martial law since the coup and a new law threatening prison for anyone convicted of obstructing the referendum.

One protester said she was there because she disagreed with many articles in the new charter.

“The junta are bandits who tore up the people’s constitution,” said 63-year-old retiree Suwanan, who gave one name only.

“How can they say they will give democracy to us, because there is no democracy among bandits,” she told AFP.

Fellow demonstrators held up signs imploring “Thaksin Come Back”, “Junta Get Out”, and “We cannot accept this constitution”.

Bangkok police major general Manit Wongsomboon estimated the crowd at more than 10,000 people, while organisers said up to 100,000 had turned out. Police said there were no reports of violence at the rally.

Tensions have been high since late July, when 100 anti-coup protesters were injured in clashes with police in the first violence since the coup in September 2006. There was a light police presence on Wednesday night.

Thai Rak Thai was dissolved by a military-appointed court in May for election fraud.

But more than 300 top members, including 160 former parliamentarians, agreed to join the People Power party, enabling them to run in polls the military has promised to hold by year’s end.


Thai Rak Thai Group rally call for voters to veto draft charter

2007-08-15 21:15:24

    BANGKOK, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) — More than 10,000 people joined a mass rally led by the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) at Sanam Luang (Royal Field square) in central Bangok Wednesday evening, which called for Thai voters to veto the draft constitution in the upcoming referendum set on Aug. 19.

    The rally started in late afternoon at Sanam Luang, a traditional venue for political rallies, with some key Thai Rak Thai members as key speakers, including Chaturon Chaisang, SudaratKeyuraphan, Pongthep Thepkarnchana, Newin Chidchob, Kuthep Saikajang and Adisorn Piengket.

    The rally leaders took the stage and called on supporters to “Vote No to the Charter”, referring to the draft constitution endorsed by the post-coup interim government and its military backer, the Council for National Security (CNS).

    This was the first anti-charter mass rally organized by the Thai Rak Thai Group, the new identity of the former ruling Thai Rak Thai Party after it was ordered to disband on electoral fraud charges in a Constitutional Tribunal verdict on May 30.

    The verdict had also deprived all 111 party executives, including its founder and former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as Thai premier by the CNS in the Sept. 19 coup last year, of the rights to seek political posts in five years ever since.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

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Thailand to Vote on Junta-Sponsored Constitution in Referendum
Bloomberg – Aug 13, 2007 By Anuchit Nguyen Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) — Thai voters, who gave former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra a two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2005,
Thais told to OK constitution
Washington Times, DC –By Richard Ehrlich BANGKOK — Thai voters are being asked to approve a new constitution Sunday, daunted by a warning from the coup-installed military regime
Ten-Thousand Thais Rally Against Junta-Sponsored Charter
AHN – Bangkok,Thailand (AHN) – About 10000 supporters of Thailand’s ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, including members of the former ruling party,
Thousands protests in Bangkok at draft constitution
Radio Australia, Australia – Members of Thailand’s former ruling party attracted at least 10000 people to a Bangkok protest on Wednesday, against the proposed post-coup constitution.
Thailand Set to Endorse New Constitution
Angus Reid Global Monitor, Canada – Aug 13, 2007 (Angus Reid Global Monitor) – The vast majority of people in Thailand are in favour of adopting a new body of law, according to a poll by the Bangkok
Thai referendum to heal country’s diseased politics?, India – Bangkok, Aug 16 : Thais will head to their neighbourhood voting stations to take part in the kingdom’s first referendum this Sunday.
Divided Thailand heads for referendum Sunday – Aug 14, 2007 Bangkok- This Sunday Thais will head to their neighbourhood voting stations to take part in the kingdom’s first-ever referendum. But few observers expect
Junta organises mass rally to back Thai poll
Gulf Times, Qatar – Aug 13, 2007 BANGKOK: Tens of thousands of people yesterday joined a government-organised
march through central Bangkok to encourage people to vote in a key


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