Anti-referendum academics and activists call for Sunday
By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN,
AN ANTI-REFERENDUM group that boycotted Sunday’s vote yesterday said the results should not be accepted.
The entire referendum process had not been free and fair from the beginning, the Group of Comrades said yesterday.
Speaking at a public seminar titled “How to Interpret the Referendum Result” at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus, Jitra Kothachat, a political activist who announced a boycott of the vote, said the process had been “corrupted” since the 2007 Constitution was revoked.
In the run-up to the vote, free and fair campaigns were not permitted by the state, resulting in very limited knowledge about the charter and the referendum, she said.
“Although efforts were made by the anti-charter groups including the New Democracy Movement [NDM], their voices did not reach the general public. They only echoed inside some universities and on some people’s Facebook news feeds,” Jitra said.
On the other side, the state had the resources to advertise the draft through mechanisms such as local administrative officials, she said.
Sastharam Thammabudsadee, another political scientist from Thammasat, said the referendum was unfair because it forced people to choose between two poor choices – and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staying in power either way.
The academic said he rejected the result on those grounds and encouraged other groups including the NDM to do the same.
Sastharam said it should not have been called a “referendum” in the first place because people from different factions had not been allowed to exchange views and the public had not been sufficiently informed.
However, Sastharam said people should not be discouraged or disheartened by the result and urged them to continue the fight against what they viewed as an undemocratic regime.
“Although the charter passed the vote, we can still criticise it if it does not foster a more democratic regime,” he said.
Big parties such as Pheu Thai had not done enough in calling for a free and fair process and therefore could not be relied upon, he said.
Sastharam said one solution could be that political activists form their own parties to promote their own agendas.
Political activist Rakchart Wongatichart, who is associated with the NDM, said the referendum’s transparency was questionable, pointing out that international observers had not been given a chance to properly monitor the process.
He added that a video clip showing polling staff counting ballots in a suspicious manner has been circulated. A staff member reportedly did not announce ballot results out loud and turned his back to observers at the front of the polling station, Rakchart said.
“And that is just one case. We do not know how many there are that we might not know of,” the activist said.