The Government Promoting the Constitution
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The Government Promoting the Constitution

The Bangkok Post reports (those joined words below are the Post’s fault):
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The Council for National Security (CNS)is pulling out all stops to rally supportfor the draft constitution ahead of thereferendum on Aug 19, according to amilitary source.
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/>CNS chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalinhas instructed around 400,000 armedforces members and police officers andtheir families, through their commanderswho sit on the CNS, to endorse the draftcharter, the source said.
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/>The officers are expected to take onthe role of ”charterambassadors”, and more than120 military-controlled radiostations have been told topublicise the charter, accordingto the source.
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/>In last week’s cabinet meeting,Gen Sonthi asked the governmentto urge state officialsto cast their ballots in the Aug19 referendum.
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/>”That is a signal for themto accept the constitution,”said the source.

/>COMMENT: Actually, I think that last statement was unfair. I think the government has an obligation to encourage people to vote so urging state officials to cast their ballots is not “wrong” in itself as long as the government doesn’t encourage the state officials to vote in any particular way.
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/>Gen Sonthi has also orderedthe Internal Security OperationsCommand (Isoc),which has 700,000 staff nationwideunder its command,to promote proper understandingof the constitutionamong rural people.
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/>Isoc spokesman Col ThanathipSawangsaeng said provincial Isoc chiefswill use door-to-door tactics in theircampaign to educate people so theywill not be ”tricked” into rejecting thedraft charter.
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/>Focusing on two elements-people’sinvolvement in politics and medical welfare-they are expected to reach out to”millions” of voters, Col Thanathip said.
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/>’‘We do not instruct them to vote forthe constitution. The referendum is aboutchoice. But I believe that they want it topass so peace can be restored,” he said.

/>COMMENT: Oh dear, Col Thanathip has gone beyond “educating” people. They might not instruct them to vote for the charter, but by stating that “peace” will be restored if it passes is beyond simple education. It becomes that unless you vote for the constitution, you don’t want peace. Then again this has been the government/CNS campaign from the beginning and is not the first time.
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Third Army commander JiradetKhotcharat expressed confidence thatno less than 70% of northern peoplewould have an understanding of thecharter and go to vote.
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/>He said the Isoc in the North madean early start, launching the campaignin February, and had enlisted help fromvarious sectors in training its staff aboutthe draft charter and drawing up a campaignstrategy.
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/>The trainers and campaigners are pittedagainst canvassers of the dissolvedThai Rak Thai party,whoare campaigningagainst the charter, especially in theNorth and the Northeast.
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/>The CNS has also won the backing oftwo major political parties-the Democratsand Chart Thai-in campaigningfor endorsement of the constitution.
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/>Democrat spokesman SathitWongnongtoey said party branchesacross the country have been told tostep up the campaign.
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/>Nikorn Chamnong, deputy leader ofChart Thai, said the partymembershavebeen told to explain to people why theconstitution should pass thereferendum.

/>COMMENT: I disagree with the Democrats and Chart Thai, but political parties and other interest groups should be able to explain their point. They are using their own money. Also, if the ISOC campaign began in February, what were they telling the villagers as the draft was only recently completed?
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However, the anti-chartercamp led by the United Frontof Democracy against Dictatorship(UDD) and formerThai Rak Thai partymembersare also gearing up for thereferendum.
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/>Surapong Suebwonglee,leader of the Thai Rak Thaigroup, said around 300,000copies of anti-charterbooklets, 600,000 leaflets and10,000 T-shirts have been preparedfor the group’s staff.
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/>”Around the end of thisweek, we will go full steamahead,” he said.
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/>UDD sources said around100 small groups, each comprisingeight people, havebeen despatched to campaign in Bangkok.In the provinces, the group relieson political canvassers.
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/>Meanwhile, deposed prime ministerThaksin Shinawatra criticised themilitary-sponsored draft constitution andurged voters to reject it in the referendum,the Financial Times reported yesterday.
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/>In an interview from his exile inLondon, Mr Thaksin described the newcharter as the ”fruit of the poisonoustree” and a ”step back for democracy”.
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/>He said it was less democratic thanthe ”people’s constitution” adopted in1997 and abolished in last September’smilitary coup against his government.
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/>Mr Thaksin told the Financial Timesthat voters would prefer to have the1997 constitution restored.
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/>Mr Thaksin described the new charteras an act of ”political revenge”

/>The Post translated an excellent Thai Rath editorial:
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The government risks being accused of using double standards in trying to ensure passage of the draft constitution in the August 19 referendum.
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/>The Interior Ministry has come under fire for announcing that it will help transport people to the polling booths on August 19. Interior Minister Aree Wongaraya insists it is not illegal for the ministry to do so. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has given his consent, he said, adding that the ministry is merely trying to provide ”convenience” for voters.
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/>But people wonder why army personnel were sent to search the house of a formermemberof parliament inKamphaeng Phet province and seize posters urging the public not to approve the draft constitution.
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/>The governmentmaytry to campaign for the draft charter’s approval, but it is not right to stifle those who are against it.
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/>It’s true that the law does not bar anyone from transporting people to vote in a referendum, but is it proper for the government to do so?
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/>In the case of Lower and Upper House elections, the Election Act states clearly that it is a criminal offence to provide free transport for voters.
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/>Through free transport, the provider may be able to sway the voters. It may also be considered a form of vote-buying. It is even more improper if village and subdistrict chiefs or heads of locally elected organisations are instructed to provide free transport for voters. It is well known that these local officials are powerful political canvassers and thus can have a big sway on voters.
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/>The authorities can only urge the electorate to exercise their voting rights – but not for approval of the draft constitution.

/>COMMENT: I couldn’t agree more. Remember Thai Rath is labelled a “tabloid”, but where are The Nation or Bangkok Post? Also, where are also these “spirit of the law” people now?
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/>Also, check out New Mandala’s comprehensive constitution coverage.