A flyer battle began when authorities attempted to prohibit pro-democracy activists from handing out flyers campaigning to ‘vote no’ in the August referendum while junta volunteers ‘explaining’ the draft constitution faced resistance from local people.
On Wednesday, 22 June 2016, Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), a pro-democracy activist group, together with another two members of the movement, handed out ‘vote no’ flyers to local people in Samrong District of Bangkok. The flyers aim to persuade people to turn down the junta’s charter draft in the August referendum.
Around 20 security officials, both police and military, approached them and asked them to stop, citing the Referendum Bill, but the activists refused the request, reasoning that the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has never said that such activity is prohibited. The authorities then allowed the activists to distribute flyers for only 30 minutes.
“We prepared almost 1,000 flyers and all of them have been distributed within 15 minutes since many people are interested in our campaign” said Rangsiman “Many of them (the local residents) asked why we will vote no in the referendum and we just explained general issues such as the problematic election system and the undemocratic origin of the charter draft.”
The activist also added that they chose Samrong District since most local residents have migrated to Bangkok from their home constituencies, so the NDM wanted to inform them about the new registration system for out-of-constituency voting, adding that the NDM has not seen any serious advocacy on the issue.
In the upcoming referendum, the ECT has changed the registration for voting outside one’s home constituency. Previously, once people registered to vote outside their hometown, their future polling station was automatically their registered constituency. But people now have to register for every poll, which is known as a set-zero system.
In a related development, Chatchai Na Chiangmai, a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee, told the media about the progress of the Khru Kho project to raise awareness of the referendum in all villages across the country. He also explained that many of the project’s volunteers, who are mostly local government officials, still lack an understanding of the draft’s content, so they cannot clearly explain some complicated issues, like the new election system, to local people, Dailynews reported
on 20 June.
According to Dailynews, Chatchai also said that local people are “threatening” to record volunteers when they explain the draft. The volunteers were then too nervous to speak properly since they were afraid of saying something illegal.