Thailand 1st Referendum: Vote NO Vote YES

21 08 2007

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Thailand’s first referendum on Sunday 19th August 2007 went smooth almost as planned, except that the turn out was lower than they expected. Almost 50% of the population in Bangkok did not bother to go to vote. This could easily be noticed when passed by some polling stations in Bangkok. I was expecting to see many yellow and a few red T-shirt on the street. Instead I found most of the people were wearing other colours, definitely not RED nor YELLOW. My sister said that it would be too obvious to put on either red or yellow on the day. It was best to keep it as secret as possible. To put on YELLOW t-shirt does not mean only that you support a new constitution but also a support to the military regime – which they feel ashamed to accept publicly. To put on RED t-shirt does mean that you are against a new constitution as well as the military regime.

For many months long, the military government made super efforts to encourage people to cast their vote last Sunday by utilising all channels of advertising and media. Their slogan “Let’s go to vote, it was up to the people to vote YES or vote NO”. I was surprised by the way the referendum was promoted massively on television, billboard, radio and newspaper. I kept asking people around me: “why did the government have to spend too much money on advertisement of one day event?”. Was it because the government did not come through legitimate mean and to make it legitimate they need people to accept a new constitution through a referendum? Even so, wasn’t it a waste?

It seems the military government won at the referendum. However, the result of the referendum also showed the diversity of views among the Thais. Although the majority of the people in the South and Central seemed to accept a new constitution, people in the Northeast rejected it. Only 50% of the people in Bangkok as well as in the North accepted it. It also showed that the military efforts to untie to country have failed, the gulf between Thaksin’s supporters in the northeast and the Bangkok urban middle class has never been narrowed down but widened up.

There are many reasons why people did not bother to go to vote last Sunday. One reason may be because they did not see the necessity of having a new constitution. We could simply use the 1997 and amend some articles to suit the present situation. The content of a new constitution is questionable especially the article on the selection process of the senate.


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