NLA head raises vote result 'hijack' fears

NLA head raises vote result 'hijack' fears

Charter PR drive falls short in remote South

Presenters put on some street theatre Wednesday at an intersection in Huai Kwang district to encourage people to come out and vote on Sunday. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Presenters put on some street theatre Wednesday at an intersection in Huai Kwang district to encourage people to come out and vote on Sunday. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai has voiced concern that the result of Sunday's referendum on the draft charter will be exploited by those intent on sowing political conflict.

"They may try to interpret the poll result in the wrong way," the NLA president said Wednesday.

Earlier, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said he expected that no matter how it turns out, the referendum would be exploited by supporters or opponents of the government to benefit their own stance.

For example, a Yes vote may be used to justify military rule while a No vote could be exploited to call for the ouster of the Prayut Chan-o-cha government.

Mr Pornpetch said the referendum only aims to gauge people's views on the charter and its attached question of whether an appointed Senate should be allowed to participate in the selection process of a new prime minister.

The EC expects the initial vote result should be announced before 9pm on Sunday, Mr Somchai said, adding the EC will try to reach its target of a 95% ballot count by then.

The official referendum outcome, which includes whether people agree with the controversial Senate role, will follow within three days, he said.

The National Council for Peace and Order, at the same time, will keep a lookout for any ill-minded activities against the referendum.

It has found nothing to cause it concern so far, authorities said.

Meanwhile, police and the Election Commission (EC) are checking whether suspects, mostly in the insurgency-plagued Pattani, who sprayed graffiti opposing the draft charter have violated the Referendum Act, said Col Pirawat Saengthong, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc).

An initial investigation found the act "had nothing to do with security issues or insurgent groups", he said.

Civic groups say the government is making little headway with its public relations drive on the poll in some areas of the deep South.

Rakchart Suwan, of the Thai Buddhist Network, said information has not reached voters in some remote areas as a number of people did not get the EC's mailout on the draft.

"Officials sent to explain to people about the draft charter do not understand the real substance of the draft and so do not have a clue about the likely impact on them. As a result, many southerners remain confused about why they have to vote," said the Yala-based Mr Rakchart.

However, it was clear that most Buddhist southerners back the now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee, which backs the draft charter.

Ghazalee Awae, of the Research Centre for Peace Building, said education and religion clauses in the draft could persuade Muslims to vote No.

"Section 31 recognises freedom of religion but adds controversial wording that says that it applies as long as it does not harm the security and safety of the nation.

Section 67, meanwhile, stipulates it is the state's duty to promote and support Buddhism," said the Pattani-based Mr Ghazalee.

He also said Section 54 provides a 12-year free education scheme that falls short of people's hopes.

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