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Overseas activists urge 'no'

Online petition against draft; fears over bribes

Published on August 15, 2007

Overseas activists urge 'no'

Motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok’s Lak Si district show off advertising they will wear reminding people of Sunday’s national referendum on the draft constitution.

A group of Thais studying overseas has issued an open letter urging people to vote against the draft constitution and support the re-introduction of the 1997 Constitution.

More than 100 people have signed the online petition: www.biolawcom.de/petition/.

The petition argues that the new charter to be voted on in the referendum on Sunday was initiated by the military junta, not the Thai people.

The referendum was being held while "people's rights have been restricted in provinces due to martial law".

The group insisted the new charter should be derived from the people. They also claimed the military-sponsored charter would weaken the electoral executive branches by empowering a half-selected, half-elected Senate to oversee the government.

The new constitution also allowed judicial institutions to intervene in the legislative body and this ran against the principle of a sovereign division of power, the petition said.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Aree Wongsearaya said the Thai Rak Thai group could campaign against the draft, as long as they did not break the law.

Officials would keep an eye on the campaign as libel cases could occur, especially as just a few days remained.

Aree admitted he previously encouraged people to accept money from vote-buyers - then not comply with their demands.

"But people have turned out to be wiser. They realise that being offered money was an insult and meant they were stupid," he said.

In Chiang Mai, provincial Election Commission chairman, Pongphan Riewthong-tawee said the agency had received reports of groups of people campaigning against the Constitution draft.

The groups visited local villagers and offered locals Bt150 each as well as red T-shirts signifying a rejection of the draft.

In Kalasin, one of the provinces with most reports of vote-buying, Governor Kavi Kittisathaporn presided over a seminar and campaign to promote the referendum.

The activities included representatives from local state agencies and administration organisations taking an oath to cast votes in the ballot and to protect and encourage democracy.

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