Thai junta urged to open dialogue ahead of referendum

Western ambassadors voice concern over prohibition of peaceful rallies, expression before vote on draft charter

Thai junta urged to open dialogue ahead of referendum

World Bulletin / News Desk

Ambassadors from Western countries have called on Thailand’s junta to open peaceful public dialogue on an upcoming referendum, following the arrest of dozens of activists.

The Aug. 7 ballot will ask voters if they approve or reject a draft constitution written by a military-appointed committee of legal experts following a May 2014 coup against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

Academics, media and party leaders on both sides of the political spectrum have criticized the draft as it allows for a senate fully appointed by the junta and for a non-elected “outsider” to become prime minister.

The Bangkok Post reported Friday that the statement -- endorsed by the ambassadors of 20 European Union member states, the United States and Canada -- voiced concerns from the international community over the junta's continued prohibition of peaceful demonstrations and expression of views.

The EU ambassadors stressed the importance of open and inclusive dialogue in unifying the Thai people and promoting democracy and national reconciliation.

The statement comes on the heels of a spate of arrests in past months.

Incidents include the arrests of 13 New Democracy Movement (NDM) members who were protesting the referendum June 23 and the arrests of six members of the Free Kasetsart group June 24 en-route to a protest at Bangkok's Democracy Monument.

Most recently, a journalist from a left-leaning online Thai newspaper, Prachathai, was detained July 12 while reporting on the NDM.

Following his arrest, Thai police and military officers also raided the Prachathai offices in search of evidence related to his arrest. 

The electoral commission, an official agency, has banned all criticisms of the draft charter, along with the wearing of T-shirts calling for voters to reject the draft at the referendum.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee responded Thursday to the ambassadors’ statement by saying that in order for the government to pursue its roadmap toward sustainable democracy, public order and social harmony must be maintained.

The Post quoted him as saying that with this in mind, the government decreed some laws which he insisted “did not impinge on general freedom of expression” so long as it “does not undermine public order or social harmony”.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Temmuz 2016, 11:25