Thailand’s poor urge junta to hold charter referendum

A civil society organisation for Thailand’s poor has urged people to call on the Thai junta through local administrators to hold a referendum on the draft constitution.

The Assembly of the Poor, an organisation which is the voice of Thailand’s poor communities, on Tuesday submitted a statement to the Thai junta to demand that the regime hold a public referendum on the draft of the country’s highest law, the constitution.

According to the group, the majority of people should be given the right to say if they accept or reject the current version of the draft constitution, which is now under the consideration of the cabinet.

The organisation suggested in the statement that people who want the authorities to hold a referendum on the draft charter should collect names in order to submit a petition to campaign for a referendum through village chiefs and other local administrators.

People should be able to determine their own future by participating in drafting the new constitution which they will be living under, the group concluded.

Last week, over 150 leading academics, activists, and others such as 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 demanded that the Thai junta hold a public referendum on the draft constitution before its enactment 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.”

In addition, Prachatai and Thaipublica, alternative media agencies, iLaw, an internet platform promoting civil laws related to freedom of expression, and Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies of Mahidol University, officially launched a new website titled ‘Prachamati’ (referendum) last week.

The website puts controversial content of the new charter draft in the spotlight and allows people to say if they agree or disagree with certain stipulations of the draft.

The first question on the website is: Do you agree or disagree that there must be a public referendum on the new constitutional draft?