Thai PM Declares Victory In Referendum: AFP

August 19, 2007 at 7:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

BANGKOK – Thailand’s army-installed government declared victory Sunday in a referendum on a new constitution and vowed to hold general elections by year’s end to restore democracy following last September’s coup.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont claimed victory after exit polls showed that nearly 68 percent of Thai voters had approved the charter, with at least two-thirds of the nation’s 45 million eligible voters casting ballots.

“We consider that this constitution has been approved by the people, and by the end of August the constitution will be submitted to the king for endorsement,” Surayud said on national television.

“Overall, the turnout was more than 50 percent. I thank the Thai people for coming out to exercise their vote,” he said.

Sunday’s vote was the first test at the ballot box for the ruling junta, which ousted elected premier Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup last September.

Surayud, who had said the country’s first-ever referendum would help put the nation back on track after more than a year of turmoil, reaffirmed that with the approval of the charter, general elections would be held by year’s end.

“I reaffirm that the election will be held late this year. The exact date is still under consideration, but I believe the most suitable date is after the king’s birthday” on December 5, he said.

“What the public has to do next is to learn about the political parties’ platforms, and the public must participate in the next general election late this year,” he said.

The prime minister was speaking about 30 minutes after polling stations had closed, and before any early returns had been released by election officials. Preliminary results were due later Sunday.

Although the military has insisted the charter will clear a path to elections, the new constitution also outlines amnesty for the generals who toppled Thaksin.

Even when elections are held, critics say the new charter will return control of government to traditional power centres in the military, the bureaucracy and the royal palace.

All three institutions have played key roles in most of Thailand’s turbulent political history, which has seen 24 prime ministers and 18 coups over the last 75 years.

Thaksin, who since the coup has lived in exile in Britain where he has bought the Manchester City football club, has called the draft “fruit from a poisoned tree.”

His youngest daughter Paethongtan was the only member of his immediate family still in Thailand and able to vote. She cast her ballot dressed entirely in black, telling reporters only that her father “misses Thailand a lot.”

Opponents, including Thaksin supporters and democracy advocates, have been campaigning against the charter, warning it will trim the powers of elected leaders.

They say the new constitution rolls back reforms included in the previous 1997 charter, and could set the stage for fragile coalition governments that would fall under the military’s sway.

Campaigning has been tilted heavily in the direction of the government, with half the country still under martial law and a new law threatening prison for anyone convicted of obstructing the referendum.(AFP)


1 Comment »

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  1. Its seems that this article is so negative about the referendum.

    Do you realize that is the first Thai referendum ever have? The military BLOOD LESS coup does not have to do it. If the military want to hold on to power, they could be like Musharuff in Pakistan and legitimise his own power thru quick election.

    The Thai Military is just correcting the wrong doer – Taksin and his crony – preventing the parasite from eating up the country.

    A Positive Note and A Thai Citizen.

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