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A Vote for Dictatorship

Thailand's Referendum Strengthens the Junta

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at a news conference in Bangkok, August 2016. Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters

On August 7, Thai voters opted to support military dictatorship. To be precise, they gave their approval to a new constitution that was drafted by a junta-appointed committee, which had seized power in a coup in May 2014. The charter proffers an all-appointed Senate with six reserved seats for senior security commanders, and provisions for a non-elected prime minister. With the approval of this document, the democratic reforms of the past 20 years were largely wiped out. The idea of firming up a strong parliamentary system, a core plank of the innovative 1997 “people’s constitution,” was now not simply forgotten, but was indeed banished.

The early August referendum had numerous parallels with a vote held on the 2007 draft constitution, which was also written under military tutelage but was far more liberal than the latest incarnation. Indeed, the entire situation felt familiar. Thailand has had more coups and constitutions since 1932 than any other country

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