Myanmar paper: Thailand risks 'substandard democracy'

Myanmar paper: Thailand risks 'substandard democracy'

A ‘khon’ performer dressed as Hanuman encourages voters to turn out in Samut Prakan for Sunday's referendum. (Photo by Suthiwit Chayutworakan)
A ‘khon’ performer dressed as Hanuman encourages voters to turn out in Samut Prakan for Sunday's referendum. (Photo by Suthiwit Chayutworakan)

YANGON: A state-run newspaper in Myanmar says Thailand risks "substandard" democracy if a military-backed draft constitution is approved in a referendum on Sunday.

The irony of the comment is hardly lost on voters and political observers alike across the region. For decades Myanmar suffered economic stagnation under harsh military rule while Thailand was seen as an Asian "tiger" economy with extensive freedoms and a developing democracy.

But the tables have turned recently, at least to some extent, with Myanmar democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi winning a landmark election last year while Thailand has been ruled by a military government tough on dissent since a 2014 coup.

But the militaries in both countries still play significant political roles.

Critics of the draft charter that Thai voters are being asked to approve say it would enshrine military supervision over elected governments.

"If the draft of the constitution in Thailand were to be approved in the upcoming referendum, the democracy in that country would become substandard and limited," said an editorial in the Burmese-language Myanma Alinn Daily, which is run by the Ministry of Information and rarely comments on politics in other countries.

Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi, asked if the editorial reflected the government's official position, referred questions to the Ministry of Information.

A senior ministry official, who declined to be identified, said of the newspaper: "As we all know, it is run by the government." The official did not elaborate.

Aung San Suu Kyi visited Thailand in June but did not publicly address its turbulent politics.

The editorial stopped short of urging Thai voters to reject the draft constitution. 

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