Drink up 'cos the generals won't go away
So this is it then; come next Sunday we're off to the polling stations for the referendum vote. That familiar locale, a school, a temple or a mosque temporarily converted into a theatre of democracy; where we performed our duty as active citizens in the Feb 2, 2014 election which was later made null and void.
Now just days ahead of the referendum, one of the biggest decisions to be made in our recent political history, it is a difficult time -- a time of indecision, fear and even anger.
But have any of us, if we are ever to call ourselves good and considerate civilians, ever stopped for a moment and thought about what the authorities -- the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the Election Commission -- must be going through?
First, two eight-year-old girls in Kamphaeng Phet ganged up to tear lists of eligible voters for the referendum. Saying they found the lists, printed on alluring pink paper, is hardly a legitimate excuse. Kudos to the director of the province's Election Commission (EC) for insisting on filing charges against the girls, and this should be a lesson to other eight-year-olds out there that there's a certain shade of pink that should be left alone.
Then came almost 100 monkeys which raided and destroyed lists of eligible voters and referendum-related documents at a polling station in Phichit. Meanwhile, in Si Sa Ket, a profusion of flags was found with the word "Gano", a coffee brand that could be read as "mark no" for the draft charter.
At first, this seemed like merely a series of coincidences until more examples surfaced. A 16-year-old boy in Khon Kaen took down and burned referendum documents to dispel mosquitoes while waiting for his girlfriend. And most recently, in Rayong, a drunk man was arrested for tearing down referendum documents to roll a cigarette.
True, there have been doubts about the way the regime has been running the country since the 2014 putsch, with the arrests of politicians and anti-coup activists who demanded the right to free speech, highlighting corruption scandals and the excessive use of the authoritarian Section 44.
Nevertheless, these alleged attempts to disrupt the referendum have brought about a gust of enlightenment: what the NCPO and the EC are trying to do is to return power to the people and that's shown in the form of a referendum, it's as simple as that.
Holding "Vote No" talks by academics? Fine. Anti-coup student activists launching a series of symbolic activities? Go ahead. But to use two eight-year-olds, 100 monkeys, the disguise of a coffee brand, a 16-year-old who hates mosquitoes and a drunk man craving a ciggy? Whoever this "Vote No" campaign mastermind is, he or she went way over the line.
The second blow to enlightenment came with draft charter booklets delivered to our homes. Skimming through the book is enough to settle our decision in the referendum. These phrases include how people's rights and freedoms will be protected. We also find such terms like "One person, one vote", political parties must pick the right politicians and the governance of the country will be transparent and of good quality, etc.
Still, despite a settled mind, it's been a long time since we were last confronted with the pressure and solitude of a voting booth, and perhaps a little favour from Prayut Chan-o-cha might help us alleviate the strain just a bit.
Here's an idea.
With that magic wand of Section 44, would Gen Prayut be so kind as to lift the ban on alcohol sales normally applied strictly before and on voting day? Just a harmless amount of booze to warm ourselves up for some democratic exertion. Shall we set a limit of just four cans of beer per person?
First can down, we may be a little tipsy and forget that if the draft is endorsed we are to have 250 senators handpicked, directly or indirectly, by the NCPO.
Second can in, we are too befuddled too realise that voting yes for the extra question in the referendum means that the 250-appointed senators serving a five-year term will be allowed to join the House of Representatives in voting for a prime minister for this period.
After the third beer, we may be too numb to figure out that even after the charter is passed, Section 44 will still remain while the new government is being formed -- in an uncertain period of time.
And finally, by the time we got through the last can, we would simply be too wasted to realise that whether the referendum result is yes or no, it's certain a few generals will still stick around. And not just for a little while.
Kaona Pongpipat is a writer for the Life section, Bangkok Post.
Writer for the Life section
Kaona Pongpipat is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.