Thai junta leader implies charter referendum ‘waste of money’

Thailand’s junta leader expressed reluctance to hold public referendum before passing the draft constitution, saying that it could cost billions of baht.

According to Prachachat News, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, on Thursday afternoon told the media that holding a public referendum on the draft constitution may cost the government three billion baht (about USD 89 million).

When asked whether the government has enough budget to hold a referendum, the junta leader ambiguously implied that we must accept the current financial situation and spend what we already have.

The PM stated that if the government spent three billion baht for the referendum and the public does not approve the charter, the government will have to spend another three billion baht on another referendum on the redrafted version of the charter.

Instead of spending the money on buying construction materials for infrastructure and assisting farmers, three billion baht might end up being wasted, added the junta leader.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Visanu Krue-ngam dismissed a proposal from the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) and National Reform Council (NRC) that a public referendum should be held on the draft constitution, according to ASTV Manager Online.

The Deputy PM said that although the majority of the CDC and NRC members see that a public referendum should be held prior to the promulgation of the draft constitution, only the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the cabinet have the authority to decide the matter.

On Sunday, over 150 leading academics, activists, and others, including Nidhi Eowseewong, Piyabutr Sangkanongul, a leading political scientist and a law scholar from Thammasat University, Chaturon Chaisang, former Education Minister of the Pheu Thai Party, and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, a well-known director, signed a joint ‘Call for a Democratic Public Referendum’.

The statement demands that the Thai junta hold a public referendum on the draft constitution before its promulgation and that if the public does not approve the draft, it should be redrafted by elected representatives.

“If the National Reform Council (NRC) approves the draft constitution, a public referendum should be held within 30 days,” said the statement. “The election for a new Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) [to redraft the constitution] should be held within 45 days after the referendum, if the draft is not approved by the public.”

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