German lawmakers denounce Thailand’s draft constitution

Thailand's military junta has been told to ensure the draft constitution can be debated by Thai citizens without fear of reprisal. This seems unlikely to happen. [Shutterstock]

The Thai government is increasingly cracking down on its critics, warned the German government’s foreign affairs committee ahead of the Southeast Asian country’s vote on its new constitution. EURACTIV Germany reports.

A month ahead of Thailand’s constitutional referendum on 7 August, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag has criticised the content of the current draft, put together by the military government, headed by General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

“With concern, we note that the draft constitution does not strengthen a separation of powers, but the power of the military is maintained in the future,” said the committee’s coordinators, Norbert Röttgen, Stefan Liebich and Marieluise Beck.

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The exact wording of the draft has not yet been made fully public, but it appears that the military will remain the highest authority in the country and that there will still be no accountability to the people.

“The military government must comply with the timetable for parliamentary elections and transition to civilian government by 2017,” insisted the members of the committee.

They also warned that the reported breaches in human rights against the regime’s critics would only increase. Observers have increasingly complained about increasing reprisals against the junta’s detractors. Since the 2014 coup, 44 cases of lèse-majesté have been opened, 44 of which were brought against online commentators.

One of the cases was instigated because the king’s dog was allegedly insulted.

Activists like Sarinee Achavanuntakul, co-founder of the internet organisation Thai Netizen Network, reported that the junta would in some cases see a “Like” on Facebook as grounds enough to send someone to prison. Many Thai citizens are as a result dissuaded from making any kind of political comments on Facebook.

German lawmakers called upon the Thai government to bring in reforms that would allow “the population to discuss and vote on the draft free of repression”.

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Whether this call will be heeded by Bangkok remains to be seen. The junta has already passed an extra law based just on the discussion surrounding the referendum, which requires people to only debate it in “polite” terms. Anyone found to be in breach of the law can face a prison sentence of up to ten years.

In an effort to get people to vote in favour of the draft, an estimated 300,000 teachers and 200,000 soldiers have been mobilised across the country, according to Jaran Ditapichai, a former member of the Thai Human Rights Commission.

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