Media and rights advocates launch referendum watch campaign

Alternative Thai media outlets, human rights advocacy groups and a youth election monitoring group have joined forces to launch a network to observe the public referendum on the draft charter.

At 2 pm on Monday, 1 August 2016, at the Prachatai office in Bangkok, three alternative Thai media outlets, Prachatai, Thai Civil Rights and Investigative Journalism (TCIJ) and Thai Publica; three rights advocacy groups, iLaw, the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies of Mahidol University (IHRP) and the Human Rights Lawyer Association (HRLA); and a youth organisation called We Watch, met to hold a press briefing on an ad hoc network to observe the 7 August public referendum on the junta-sponsored draft constitution.

While youth trained by We Watch will volunteer to monitor the referendum at polling stations, the six organisations will provide platforms for people to send in information about the referendum and communicate it to the public.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the Prachatai Director, said that volunteers from We Watch will gather information from observing the referendum systematically while other people can also freely report to Prachatai and other organisations what happens on referendum day at their polling stations.

“We want people and [our] network to report and record as many of these stories as possible,” said Chiranuch.

Eakpant Pidavanija, Director of the IHRP, said at the briefing that the upcoming draft constitution referendum is different from past elections because he has not seen serious efforts to monitor the referendum. Therefore, civil society groups and the people will coordinate the observation efforts since the draft constitution might become the highest law of the country.

At the briefing, Yingcheep Atchanont, Programme Manager at iLaw, and Chiranuch expressed reservations as to why the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has banned exit polls at the referendum, saying it cast doubt over the transparency of the poll.

According to Chompunut Chalieobun, coordinator of We Watch, the organisation has trained about 30 volunteers to observe the draft charter referendum and report on disruptions and irregularities which could occur on referendum day, including the presence of soldiers at polling stations.

The network has asked people to post information about the referendum with the hashtag #ส่องประชามติ (monitoring referendum) or report irregularities in the referendum via iLaw or Prachatai Facebook messages.   

Alternative Thai media outlets, human rights advocates and a youth election monitoring group launch a network to observe the public referendum on the draft charter at the Prachatai office in Bangkok on 1 August 2016

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