An election monitoring group has said that the Thai military government had refused to grant it accreditation to monitor an upcoming constitutional referendum.
The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) said that repeated attempts to gain accreditation to monitor the August 7 referendum, Thailand’s first trip to the polls since the military took power in 2014, were met with silence.
“We have repeatedly asked for the last two months for the government to accredit us to monitor this election,” Pongsak Chanon, ANFREL’s Thailand co-ordinator, told DPA by phone.
“We gave them many deadlines because we have to organise nationwide monitors and analysts. All those deadlines have lapsed,” he said.
The lack of accreditation means that ANFREL is unlikely to monitor the referendum in any official capacity, Pongsak said.
The military government had said in June that it did not need outsiders monitoring an internal matter.
The government has been bullish about the upcoming vote, which analysts see as a litmus test on military rule.
The junta has also banned public discussion of both the constitution and the referendum, and has arrested activists and politicians who violate the order.
Despite the ban, many have come out against the draft charter, saying that it would prolong military rule by allowing for a fully appointed upper house of parliament and provisions for an unelected prime minister.
On Wednesday a former prime minister whose party supported the coup lambasted the junta’s new constitution, a rare blow to the army from within its own political camp.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was appointed prime minister from 2008-2011, leads the Democrats, Thailand’s second biggest party.
They have failed for two decades to win an election but carry major clout within the Bangkok establishment that rallied behind the May 2014 overthrow of Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.
The army has held the country in lockdown since its coup, banning protests, muzzling dissent and even outlawing campaigning against the charter before the August 7 vote.
The junta says the new document is crucial to ending a decade of political turmoil that has frequently spilt into violence.
But critics say it will straitjacket democracy with clauses calling for a fully-appointed senate and unelected premier – both of which could help the military keep its allies in power.
“I do not approve of the draft constitution,” Abhisit told AFP in a rare attack on the junta from within the powerful establishment.
“It goes against the basic principle of what we believe in ... democracy,” he said, adding that the document “will trigger new conflict”.
He urged the junta to rewrite the charter.
On Monday a gang of 100 marauding monkeys have become the latest saboteurs to target the referendum after they tore down voter lists.
Officials were forced to pin up new voter lists in the northern province of Phichit after around 100 macaque monkeys left the documents in tatters.
“They are naughty animals so they tore it down,” Prayoon Chakpacharakul, the director of the province’s election commission, told AFP.
News of the monkey business inspired social media wags, with some joking they were deployed by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra – the junta’s nemesis.
A cartoon circulated on Facebook showed the self-exiled former premier feeding bananas to a troupe of monkeys as they gleefully tore into voter lists.
Last week two eight-year-old girls were charged under a junta law for tearing down voter lists in a game, the latest increasingly bizarre act in a crackdown before the vote.
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