Shareware Beach

Thursday, 23 August 2007

New Constitution Passes Referendum

Filed under: Thailand — Jan @ 17:06

It’s been almost a year since the military overthrew Thailand’s elected government. I haven’t blogged about Thai politics since, simply because there isn’t really anything to report. The civilian government appointed by the military has managed to keep the country plodding along nicely. In the mean time, a new constitution was drafted and a referendum was held on August 19th.

Only 57% of registered voters bothered to show up. 58% ticked the box “I like what I see”, while 42% ticked the “I don’t like what I see” box.

Though that means the constitution was approved, the margin is obviously very thin. And, people voting “yes” don’t necessarily agree with the constitution or the way it was drafted. They simply want to country to move ahead with the elections scheduled for mid-December. In Thailands Northeastern region, which is the most populated and also the poorest, 63% of the voters rejected the constitution. It’s no surprise that the military are more than a little worried about their public image.

The army chief, who is close to his retirement, has stated that his successor should make PR a top priority. My idea is that staying out of politics would be a good start. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem very likely in the near term, as the new constitution gives more power to the military and to bureaucrats at the expense of elected representatives. However, constitutions are hardly written in stone in this part of the world. Most political parties encouraged their voters to accept the draft constitution, not because they like it, but because it clears the impasse allowing new elections. Once a new elected government is in place, it can work on amending the constitution in a more democratic process.

Other than the odd political situation, it’s very much business as usual in Thailand. Phuket, one of Thailand’s main tourist destinations, is enjoying an unusually strong low season (May to October). It’s the first time after the December 2004 tsunami that tourists are back in full force. If the trend continues into the high season, you might not want to wait too long if you were planning to book a trip to escape the cold winter back home. There hasn’t been any noteworthy political unrest since the coup last year, and there’s unlikely to be any going forward.

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