27 July 2016

"I cannot accept this draft..."

Abhisit Vejajjiva, leader of the Democrat Party and former prime minister, has announced his opposition to the military junta's proposed new constitution. At a press conference today, he said: "I cannot accept this draft." He made clear that he was speaking in a personal capacity, as party politics has been outlawed since the 2014 coup.

Specifically, Abhisit criticised article 102 of the charter, which calls for a fully appointed Senate. (Thailand's 1997 constitution introduced an elected Senate for the first time in the country's history, though under the military's 2007 constitution the Senate became 50% appointed.) Earlier this year, Abhisit said: "The draft charter is retrogressive compared to the 2007 charter".

A referendum on the issue will be held on 7th August. As in the 2007 constitution referendum, a 'yes' vote is being equated with a faster return to democracy, though coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha has already delayed his 'election roadmap' multiple times. At today's press conference, Abhisit rejected the idea that a 'no' vote would exacerbate Thailand's political crisis: "if the draft is rejected, the country will have a better opportunity."

The proposed constitution has also been rejected by Pheu Thai. The Party issued a statement in April calling for a 'no' vote: "Pheu Thai Party requests that the people come out and vote to "reject" the draft charter that does not recognize the people's power and lacks democratic principles." (That press release was written before the Referendum Act came into effect, since when campaigns against the charter have been effectively banned.)