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As the voting for the referendum for the 21th constitution will be held tomorrow, here is what you need to know before casting your ballot.

What has been going on with the referendum campaign lately?

Campaigning in any kind in the drafting process is prohibited. It has outlawed critical discussion of the document with a 10-year prison sentence. Recently, authorities arrested or warned scores of people for handing out critical leaflets or wearing Vote No t-shirts. It was also reported that two eight-year-old girls were charged for tearing down voter lists for a controversial upcoming referendum without knowing because they liked the paper’s pink colour. As a result, more than 20 ambassadors from Europe, US and Canada also issued a public statement last month expressing joint concern about the ruling National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO)’s suppressive actions.

What’s extra question?

Voters will be asked whether they allow 250 non-elected senators, serving a five-year term during the transition period to select a prime minister after the constitution take effect.  

Scholars say the question is intended as a test of the military regime's popularity to determine whether it can remain in power.

What’s non-elected senators ’s selection process?

National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will appoint 194 of 400 candidates with 6 seats reserved for armed forces chiefs. There will be another 50 from another pool of candidates who will represent 20 professional groups at provincial and national levels.

What’s allowed and not allowed for Sunday’s referendum?

•  No alcohol sales allowed from 6 pm. Saturday until midnight Sunday. Also, alcohol consumption at events such as weddings during that period is prohibited.

• Pros – cons comments neither “vote yes”  nor “  vote  no ” is permitted from 6 pm. Saturday until 6 pm. Sunday - only encouraging people to vote is allowed.

• There is no ban on wearing "vote yes" or "vote no" T-shirts, but doing so at polling booths is discouraged.

• Photographs cannot be taken inside polling booths including selfie.

What organizations that will monitor the referendum?  

The Election Commission this time refrains independent organization to observe the August 7th referendum. However, an Asia-wide election monitoring groups:  the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) and the Asia Foundation will deploy a limited number of staff to observe the referendum, locally and unofficially. Further, several embassies in Bangkok said they would also  send the monitoring teams to observe the event at polling stations including the US embassy in Bangkok.

Can the constitution be amended later?

It requires several parties and process of the constitutional amendment .It must be purposed either by the Council of Ministers or members of the House of Representatives of not less than one-fifth of the total number of the existing members of the House of Representatives, or members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of not less than one-fifth of the total number of the existing members thereof, or not less than 50,000 eligible voters in accordance with the law on the public initiative of a bill.

When is the referendum’s result?                                                                        

According to Election Commission, up to 95 percent of referendum results are expected be known by 9 p.m. on Sunday,7th August while the full official result will be announced within three days.

What’s next?

If the draft passes, the government will stick to the roadmap to hold a general election in late 2017.  It will take six months after the referendum to draft organic laws to go with the new constitution before an election can be scheduled.

If the draft fails, the junta will still remain in power. On top of that, Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted he will not step down in the event that the draft constitution is voted down in Sunday's referendum, saying he had to remain in power in line with the political "roadmap" and tackle existing problems, such as political conflicts.


Author: Wasu Vipoosanapat

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