Army cadets to stand at polling stations to inform people about new charter

The Commander of the Royal Thai Army has announced that military students will be sent to stand at referendum polling stations to inform people about the draft constitution.

At the event to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the Territorial Defence Command (TDC) on Thursday, 4 February 2016, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, Chief of the Royal Thai Army, said that Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), students, high school and college students undergoing military training, will be deployed at polling stations set up nationwide for the public referendum on the draft constitution.

ROTC students will be deployed at polling stations to inform people about the draft constitution to foster understanding about the draft as people are participating in the referendum, added the Thai Army Chief.

He said that the initiative is a part of ROTC policies to foster the volunteer spirit among military students in order to build up ‘a strong mass who worship the monarchy to support the Thai Army.’

In addition, Gen Teerachai said that military officers from many divisions will also be sent to communities throughout the country to foster an understanding about positive aspects of the draft constitution, especially its content dealing with anti-corruption mechanisms.

The officers will also inform people about the roadmap of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), he added.

At the same event, Lt Gen Weerachai Intusophon, Commander of the TDC, said that as the public referendum on the constitutional draft is drawing near, ROTC students will cooperate with the Election Commission of Thailand (ETC) to set up workshops in order for them to perform their tasks at the referendum polling stations most effectively.

“During the referendum, these kids will help promote [the draft constitution] at the referendum polling stations. Therefore, these kids will have the opportunity to help reform the nation,” said Lt Gen Weerachai.   

Earlier this week, Thanit Sriprathet, a senior expert at the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), announced that people will be allowed to express their approval or disapproval about the latest draft constitution via a public referendum.

He said that people can express their opinions about the draft constructively in public. However, he added that those who distort information about the draft, use rude language to criticise it, or incite people to oppose the draft might face penalties.

Thanit said that the ECT cannot set penalties against opponents of the draft who distort facts about it, but the Commission had already submitted a proposal for the government to enact a law about it.

The draft constitution, written by the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) under the leadership of Meechai Ruchupan, faces criticism from many civil society groups and from Thailand’s two biggest parties, Pheu Thai and Democrat Party.

The People’s Council for Reform (PCR), a coalition of 78 civil society groups, concluded in a meeting this week that the draft constitution will suspend rights and liberties enshrined by previous constitutions.

Earlier, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, former deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Pheu Thai Party, said that the draft constitution might have been deliberately designed to be rejected in order to prolong the life of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the formal name of the Thai junta.

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