BANGKOK: Thai authorities involved in a military-backed draft constitution have been stepping up public campaigns with the Election Commission (EC), hosting multiple events around the country to woo voters, as they projected an 80 per cent voters turn out.
A the same time, the chairman and several members of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) went on public television to answer questions from the public about the draft charter. This comes after criticisms that the CDC has not done enough to spread information about the draft charter to the public.
Thai officials don shirts publicising the referendum to be held on Sunday. (Photo: Kittiphum Sringammuang)
The Royal Thai Police has also mobilised more than 200,000 police officers to provide security to 94,000 voting areas across the country on referendum day on Sunday, as the government dismissed concerns raised by several foreign embassies about possible political tensions on voting day.
High school band publicising the referendum at Royal Plaza in Bangkok. (Photo: Kittiphum Sringammuang)
A lot is at stake ahead of the first major referendum vote since the Thai military staged a coup in 2014.
If the draft constitution is passed, the military government will be able to gradually count down towards an election sometime later next year. But its failure could also lead towards an extended period of military rule.
Those who drafted the charter say that the document would provide more stability and accountability in future governments.
Thai volunteers urging people to vote on referendum day in Bangkok. (Photo: Kittiphum Sringammuang)
“What we have done is draft a constitution to reflect the conditions of Thailand,” said Norachit Sinhaseni who is a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee.
"What the people want is a stable government, stable environment for people to earn their living, for business to thrive, for foreign investments and also any poll that you see. What do they want to see in the government? They want a clean government."
"This particular constitution that was drafted intends to do that. It is very strict on those who are corrupt. They will not be allowed to participate in any future political activities. The courts will be able to rule on this," said Norachit.
Critics say that giving too much power to the courts and the semi-judicial independent organisations is undemocratic, and could be a seed to future political conflicts.
“The Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary branches of government should provide checks and balances between each other, rather than one having more scrutiny power over others," said Poonthep Sirinupong, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University.
"In the past, we saw the creation of these independent organisations, which don’t have any links to the people. They also don’t get scrutinise by any other organisations. And their function solely is to limit the power of elected officials."
Prior to the coup, these semi-judicial independent organisations play important roles in ending the Yingluck Shinawatra government through its investigation into corruption allegations. The Constitutional Court has also been involved in banning political parties and annulling elections since 2007.
The draft constitution also allows for an unelected Prime Minister to take power, and enable the current military government to appoint the Senate that will be in power for the next five years.
Motorcycle taxis in Bangkok publicising voting on referendum day. (Photo: Kittiphum Sringammuang)
There are 50.5 million eligible voters for the referendum on Sunday. Voting will start at 8.00am and ends at 4.00pm local time.