“Information” Campaign over the Draft Constitution
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“Information” Campaign over the Draft Constitution

As you all are no doubt aware now, a new constitution is being drafted and a referendum is scheduled for August.

Here is what PM Surayud has asked for:

“I have instructed leaders of every ministry to help educate the people on the draft charter, which will be passed by the Charter Drafting Council on July 6,” Gen Surayud said after a meeting with senior bureaucrats of 19 ministries.

COMMENT: The government has responded as Prachatai reports:

Even the “referendum” which the military is the one that decides the terms still reflects unfairness of this military government. Please read the message that is being posted in the advertisement using the taxes of the people:

United for the referendum ballot
/>New Constitution so that Thai politics will then go to


Would this fall under the charge of using election (which is the most basic principle of democracy) as ‘hostage’?
/>Most importantly, this is the advertisement done by the Committee on Information and Public Dissemination of the Constitution Drafting Assembly, which is the department involving in the 2007 Drafting of the 2007 constitution.

COMMENT: Yes, the education campaign implies that if you need to vote for the draft constitution for there to be an election and The Nation reports that it is working:

…the CDA’s Chutinant Bhirompakdi, president of the PR sub-committee, said he could not remember the figure but noted that the entire public relations campaign was “expensive”.

Matichon reader Chatri Prakit-nonthakan said it was good to see campaigns from both sides in the media.

“But I’m disappointed the CDA chose to tell us half truths, just like many other product advertisements. Voting ‘no’ does not mean there would be no election as the interim constitution from the coup group stated,” said Chatri, who teaches Thai Architecture at Silapakorn University.

Meanwhile, businessman Anon Tirakij, said he was convinced by the CDA ad that there would be no election if people did not vote in favour of the CDA’s draft charter.

Media scholar Ruj Kamonbut, said he was afraid the CDA had misunderstood its role as it was misleading the public into thinking the general election would be held only if people voted for the draft.

“Though a half-truth is normally used as strategy by advertising companies, the CDA is an independent body and using people’s tax money [to buy ad space]. It should realise that its duty is to give straightforward information to the public,” said Ruj, a lecturer at Thammasat University’s faculty of journalism and mass communications.

/>Chutinant conceded that the CDA intentionally urged people to vote in favour of the draft charter. “Why not?” he asked, “We believe that our draft is better than the 1997 Constitution.”

Gen. Surayud is not the only person to mobilise government support for the approval of the constitution as the Bangkok Post reports:

He [chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), Squadron Leader Prasong Soonsiri], said local administration organisations nationwide must be ordered to “help to explain the benefits of new constitution to people in their respective areas,” to ensure the referendum result approves the constitution.

COMMENT: What no dissemination of neutral information? Here is the Defence Minister on why you should vote for the draft:

When asked about reports that there are movements to kill the draft constitution, Defence Minister Boonrawd said he wants people to accept the constitution draft in order to move forward to the general election.

The constitution can be amended later, after the election, he added. This is now the general line – to vote for the constitution no matter what, and trust the next government to amend it.

COMMENT: So why not just go back to the 1997 Constitution then if the new one will just be amended?

Even the best that Surayud can come up with is this:

“I will illustrate this simply. Between something I have in my hand in front of me and something I have in my hand behind me, which one will people choose?” he said.

If the constitution draft is rejected at a referendum, the Council for National Security (CNS) is authorised to revive, amend and impose any previous constitution.

COMMENT: Yeah, because even the government doesn’t trust the CNS to give us a good constitution.

Even coup supporter Suriyasai The Bangkok Post reports (cache):

Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, yesterday called on the CDA to stop encouraging voters to adopt its draft through advertising, as the CDA has a conflict of interest over the draft charter.
/>He said the CDA should stick to disseminating information about the draft.

This doesn’t seem to have stopped the government with it today announcing:

Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday approved a Bt576-million budget for the Election Commission in preparing a referendum on the draft charter.

The Cabinet also approved the Education Ministry’s proposal to promote democracy, the referendum and elections.

The project will include informing and educating people about the draft and the referendum in July and August. After that will be campaigning for people to cast their votes in the referendum as well as promoting free and fair voting.

COMMENT: We know what “information and educating people” means.

Finally, on the content, it is rare that I agree Tulsie, but I do agree with this:

For the record here, I personally will judge the charter draft on its promises, not on its origin, simply because why we have wound up here is not that simple. We have lost a very noble charter created from a noble process and the country has been divided down the middle. So, perhaps giving a chance to a draft constitution that has risen from the ruins of such division may not be such a bad idea.

COMMENT: To be honest, I couldn’t care if a bunch of caveman gathered around and produced the draft. I am more interested in its contents.