Published on August 16, 2007
If anyone tells you he has read all 309 articles in the constitution draft up for our judgement on Sunday, that fellow is certainly full of hot air.
As far as I am concerned, you simply dig into the issues you care most about. If most of what they put in there concerning the issues you care deeply about fits your political convictions, go for it. If not, show up at the pooling booth and put a big "X" mark in the "no" box.
But then, I must confess things aren't always so simple. I have received a few "questions I am too scared to ask in public" on the referendum that I think should be addressed here. Here are some of the last-minute "real questions" from those who demand some "real answers".
Q: Is it true, as I read from a pamphlet handed to me surreptitiously by a neighbour, that if I vote "yes" for the charter on August 19, I would be supporting the September 19 coup?
My answer is: Despite some desperate attempts to paint this referendum as a last-ditch political battle between Council for National Security Chairman (CNS) General Sonthi Boonyaratglin and former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, this exercise shouldn't be reduced to such a simplistic confrontation. The constitution should be accepted or rejected based on its own merits because, after all is said and done, the country will still be there long, long after these two guys are gone.
Q: Is it true that if I vote "no", I would be advocating Thaksin's return to power?
The answer is a definite "no". Ironically, both the pro-Thaksin elements and pro-CNS groups want the rest of the country to think along that line. If the charter draft is rejected on August 19, it would simply be because those who don't approve of the coup and those who don't like some of the charter's provisions will have felt strongly enough to cast their ballots in such a way that they outnumber those who want things to proceed smoothly. The "naysayers" don't necessarily see this as a Sonthi-versus-Thaksin battle.
In fact, regardless of what the pro-Thaksin camp plans to do, should that scenario unfold, a rejection of the constitution draft may make it even harder for Thaksin to come home. That is because if the draft were to be thrown out, the power would revert to the coup-leaders who, with the Cabinet, could then just choose any of the previous constitutions (with the authority to make amendments) and enforce it without further consultation with anybody else.
So, don't let them put you on tenterhooks.
Don't let them spread fear among the citizens. Don't let them overwhelm us with a sense of guilt if we don't cast our vote the way they want.
Even if yours is a strident voice in the cacophony, make sure you vote with your conscience.
Q: What if I get so confused that I decide not to go out and vote at all?
A: That would be a double whammy. You would be playing into the hands of both the Sonthi and Thaksin camps.
Whether you realise it or not, by not exercising your referendum rights, you would end up becoming an accomplice in the conspiracy to hijack Thailand's democracy yet again.