Many questioned over torn ballots

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Most apprehended thought to have acted innocently.

MANY cases were reported yesterday of voters tearing referendum ballots in half, although ignorance was thought to be behind most incidents – but an election figure warned that people found guilty of a wilful misdemeanour would have to face the consequence of their action.

Such incidents were reported at 30 voting booths in 18 provinces including Bangkok, which had 10 cases in five polling stations, the Election Commission said.

EC member Boonyakiat Rakchartchaoren said it was believed most torn ballots were the result of misunderstanding, as the ballots had two distinguishable parts divided by a line that read “folding line”.

People who tore their ballots were charged but further investigation would be done to see if the individuals would have to face court, Boonyakiat said.


Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn warned that people who tore ballots for a political purpose would be punished.

The action is a crime punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to Bt20,000, according to the Referendum Act BE 2559 [2016].

Deputy national police chief General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul inspected 30 polling stations in Bangkok and nearby areas. He said all stations had functioned rather well and officials at the stations were instructed to inform voters aged over 50 about the steps needed to be taken in casting ballots, to prevent them from unknowingly tearing ballots.

Bangkok police chief Lt-General Sanit Mahathaworn said he would consult with the Election Commission on whether four people who tore up ballots in Bangkok would face legal action.

Sanit said they were senior citizens who misunderstood that the ballot should not be torn.

Pipat Paesuwannarak, 69, of Thung Khru district, Sophon Chutimanon, 75, from Bang Phlat, Somkiat Kriengkrai, 78, from Phra Khanong, and Molruedee Amsakulwas, 54, of Bang Na, were arrested.

Pipat, Sophon and Molruedee were released pending further probes.

Somkiat was held in custody and charged with three offences. He is due to be brought to Phra Khanong Provincial Court today. He has been charged with violating the Referendum Act, damaging someone else’s property (punishable by up to three years in jail or a Bt60,000 fine) and damaging a state-issued document (punishable by up to five years in jail and/or a Bt10,000 fine)

In Pathum Thani’s Muang district, Yuwalee Wanpen, 66, was also arrested for tearing the ballot. She thought it was tearable, like an MP election ballot.

In Chon Buri province, Boondej Jomkaew, 67, of Sattahip district, and Waew Yodkhao, 70, of Sri Racha, were also arrested for tearing ballots.

Similar problems occurred with retired official Muang Noonpakdee, 89, of Kanchanaburi’s Muang district, Paiboon Suparat, 54, of Nakhon Sawan’s Muang district, and Ngid Klaipaen, 76, of Nakhon Sawan’s Lat Yao district.

Also arrested for the same alleged offence were Sangwee Jantapol, 81, of Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang district, and hill-tribe woman Rattanaporn Jenjob-eiumla-or, 21.

Rattanaporn was arrested in Tha Song Yang in Tak province. She allegedly said she did not know how to vote, so she tore the ballot paper.

Taew Pattha, 61, who was arrested in Si Sa Ket province, told police: “I saw the ballot’s two sections, each in a different colour, so I tore them apart without knowing it was against the law.”


Results ‘suggest people back military role in govt’

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn announced unofficial result of the referendum yesterday. As 94 percent of ballot count, the vote turn out was 55 percent, less than 2007 referendum which turn out was 57 percent.

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn announced unofficial result of the referendum yesterday. As 94 percent of ballot count, the vote turn out was 55 percent, less than 2007 referendum which turn out was 57 percent.

YESTERDAY’S referendum results were an indicator that most voters were fed up with post-coup politics and wanted the military to have role in forming the next government, observers said.

Parinya Thewanarumitkul, a law lecturer at Thammasat University who was formerly a student leader, said the vote results seemed to show that people were weary of political upheaval seen before the military coup of 2014.

“The voters are tired of the conflict of interest and a democracy rife with conflicts,” he said.


Sukhum Nuansakul, a political analyst and former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, said the referendum results indicated that Thai people had accepted the military-led government.

He said the voters had given the military a role in forming the next government. “It seems people consider the prime minister as a good leader.”

He added that the people loved Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha because he could keep the country “peaceful” and “in order”.

Importantly, Thais are bored with politics and they do not believe their “once-favourite” politicians, Sukhum said.

The veteran scholar said that though leaders of two major parties – former premier Yingluck Shinawatra of Pheu Thai and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva – had clearly announced their rejection of the draft, the people did not follow them.

Abhisit yesterday said he accepted the vote results and asked all the parties involved to do the same.

He said the focus should now be on the government’s road map for the next election to be held within 2017.

As of press time last night, when about 95 per cent of the ballots were counted, 61.4 per cent were “Yes” votes and 38.6 per cent “No”.

On the question of whether senators should be allow to select a prime minister, 58.1 per cent voted “Yes” and 41.9 per cent “No”.

All regions of the country except the Northeast supported both questions, according to provisional results provided by the Election Commission.

The widest margin was in the South, where “Yes” votes outnumbered “No” votes by 77 per cent to 23 per cent to approve the draft constitution. In the Northeast, 52 per cent of voters disapproved of the draft compared to 48 per cent who approved of it, while 55.5 per cent voted “No” for senators selecting a PM and 44.5 per cent voted “Yes”.

In Bangkok, 69 per cent or 1.3 million voters accepted the draft and 30 per cent or 596,820 rejected the draft.

Meanwhile, opponents of the draft charter including the Pheu Thai Party, questioned the legitimacy of the referendum, as voter turnout was low.

Yesterday’s turnout was about 58 per cent, when 94 per cent of the cast ballots had been counted, according to Election Commission member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. This compared with 57 per cent in the previous referendum on the charter draft of 2007.

Pheu Thai Party executives yesterday said voters approved the draft because they wanted an election to be held early. They said voter turnout this time was low or around 50 per cent. It was lower than the previous referendum in 2007 which was 57 per cent, party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said.

“It’s a pity that we get a less democratic charter than the previous one, but the country has to move on,” he said.

He said the party would continue to fight for democracy but refused to say whether they will run in an election under a charter they oppose.

Leaders of the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) blamed the Election Commission and the NCPO for the low voter turnout. They said the authorities created an “atmosphere of fear”.

Red-shirt leadersJatuporn Promphanand Nattawut Saikua said they accepted the result but would continue to fight for democracy.

Constitution Drafting Commission chairman Meechai Ruchupan held a press conference to thank Thais for voting to accept the charter draft while urging them to forget what happened during the referendum process.

He said any hurtful words that some people directed at the CDC or the CDC made against them should be forgotten, so that all parties could move forward following the passage of the charter draft at the referendum.

He said it would take around three or four months for the referendum to take effect.

The CDC, he said, drafted the charter to help solve the country’s problems, and by coming out and voting for it meant the people have accepted the proposals.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged people to accept the results of yesterday’s vote.

Prayut thanked Thais for coming out in great numbers to vote, Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

“The prime minister is ready to accept the vote result and he asks all the parties to accept the people’s decision,” the spokesman said. Prayut also reiterated that the government would follow the road map.

The prime minister will hold an informal meeting of the Cabinet today to discuss the referendum result, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said. The meeting will gather opinions before discussing them in a joint meeting between the Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the EC yesterday rejected the legitimacy of referendum observers from the US Embassy in Thailand, saying the embassy had failed to notify the EC headquarters beforehand.

The US embassy assigned at least three officials to unofficially observe the procedures in Nakhon Si Thammarat, where they went to observe the voting material distribution centre in Muang district and also several polling booths in the province.

The Nation has learnt that the embassy sent its officials to observe other provinces as well.

Embassy spokesperson Melissa Sweeney told The Nation that the embassy had made the provincial ECs aware of their observation plan and measures prior to the voting date.

“The meeting between the US mission personnel and provincial Election Commissioners were arranged and agreed to in advance in order to provide unofficial observers with information about the referendum process,” Sweeney said.

The EC source also said that the embassy sent a letter to the EC on their request, asking the observation not to be officially facilitated.

However, the Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuttiyakorn said that the EC headquarter never learnt of the embassy’s activities prior to yesterday and it was inappropriate for the embassy to directly approach the provincial ECs. “They should notify us first,” Somchai said.

The Foreign Ministry cannot be immediately reached for comments.


EC member fears voters ill-informed will vote ‘irrational’

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




MANY eligible voters are ill-informed about the draft constitution and are likely to base their decision on irrational belief rather than objective judgement, Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said yesterday.

What voters should know about are the key points of the draft charter, and they should then weigh in their minds whether or not it is a good document overall when deciding how to vote in the upcoming referendum, he added.

Somchai said voters also did not understand everything about the charter when the previous referendum in 2007 took place. However, understanding everything about the entire draft was not necessary, anyway, he stressed.

The referendum on the draft constitution will be held next Sunday, and the official results can be announced within three days of the nationwide vote, he said.

Unofficial results, however, could be available four hours after the poll closes, he added.

The EC member also said public influencers such as politicians and opinion leaders should not attempt to sway voters. It would hurt the country if people did not make a decision logically, but only mindlessly followed “irrational influence”, he added.

Somchai also said that until August 7, there was time to disseminate useful information to the public.

The EC aims for at least 80 per cent of the Kingdom’s eligible voters to turn out, and the agency’s success would be determined by whether the turnout rate is higher than in 2007, when it was 57 per cent, he said.

“If the number is smaller than that, then it means that our performance has been problematic,” Somchai told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has ordered its agencies nationwide to promote the referendum, disseminate correct information about the draft, and encourage voters to take part in related debates.

Krisada Boonrat, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said that the order followed directions provided by the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s recent demand for such action to be taken.

Each provincial governor will arrange the activity accordingly under a Bt150,000 budget provided by the EC.

The appropriate date for each province to hold such events will also be decided by each governor, he said, adding that the events would be in strict accordance with the referendum law.

Pradit Yamanan, deputy director-general of the Provincial Administration Department, said that having voters understand all 279 sections of the draft was not easy to achieve. He said the army of “Kru Kor” – the information disseminators closest to the public – had reported that voters were mostly only showing interest in rights issues and seemed satisfied when they learned that they could still enjoy state welfare.

Pradit acknowledged that the state had been wrong about the online distribution of the draft. He said many people still expected the delivery of hard copies and had no access to the Internet. However, the authorities had fixed the problem by having the trainees orally explain the draft to them, the official added.

In a related development, EC member Prawit Rattanapian yesterday further explained the prohibitions ahead of the plebiscite, saying that politicians were free to express their views as long as they did not deviate from the truth.

He also advised voters against taking selfies in polling booths, adding that doing so was illegal under the referendum law.

National police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said yesterday that around 200,000 police officers would be deployed on August 7 to all 94,000 polling stations across the country, to ensure that peace and order was maintained.

Bid to mislead Muslim voters

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



CDC claims politicians in the far south said charter would hurt their faith.

SOME politicians in the Muslim-majority deep South are distorting elements of the draft constitution in a bid to persuade Muslim voters to reject the draft, a spokesman for the charter writers said yesterday.

Amorn Wanichwiwatana, spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), said he has learnt from security officials in the southern border region that a group of people led by Muslim politicians from the Wadah group had produced an audio clip criticising the draft.

They said a clause in the draft regards Buddhism as the country’s superior religion, and that in turn could negatively affect Muslims. The clip claimed the clause in question could affect Muslims performing their religious tasks, he said.

“This is not the truth. Article 67 of the draft constitution states that the government needs to support and protect Buddhism and other religions,” the CDC spokesman said.

Amorn said he and the security officials had agreed that the clip “clearly distorted the draft constitution” and that it could influence voters’ decisions in the run-up to the August 7 referendum.

“Security officials also see that, as this involves religious issues, the case could be treated as a security threat,” he said.

The CDC spokesman said the clip should be an issue for security authorities because the drafters were not the “damaged party”.

Amorn said the audio clip was bout two minutes long and in Thai. It had been distributed in three southern border provinces.

“I believe the people responsible for the clip are acting as a tool for people who want the new constitution to be rejected. If the draft passes the referendum, they could be charged with sedition and the penalty is capital punishment,” Amorn said.

Article 67 of the draft charter states that: “The government shall support and protect Buddhism and other religions. In supporting and protecting Buddhism, which most Thai people have practised for a long time, the government will encourage study and dissemination of Theravada Buddhism teachings for spiritual and intellectual development. There must be measures and mechanisms to prevent any form of subversion of Buddhism. And Buddhists will be encouraged to take part in those measures and mechanisms.”

Meanwhile in Songkhla, a group of referendum observers in the southern border region yesterday filed a complaint with local police accusing the Election Commission of distorting the draft charter in its booklet distributed to eligible voters throughout the country.

Faosee Billo, a leader of the group, filed the complaint with Chana district police superintendent Pol Colonel Sakon Anonrat. He said certain claims in the booklet were not exactly true to the draft charter and it only mentioned the benefits of the draft, in an apparent attempt to woo voters to approve the draft.

Sakon said that he would refer the complaint to the Songkhla police chief for further action.

In related news, Boonlert Buranupakorn, the chief executive of Chiang Mai‘s Provincial Administrative Organisation, reported yesterday to military officials at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok.

Boonlert is suspected of being involved in the production and distribution of letters with content that distorted the constitutional draft.

He returned to Chiang Mai yesterday from a trip to the United States. Yesterday morning, the northern city’s local administrator flew to Bangkok and went straight to the military camp. He denied any involvement with the alleged wrongdoing.

Boonlert’s niece Tassanee Buranupakorn, a former Pheu Thai Party MP, has been detained at the 11th Military Circle in connection with the case. Five others were arrested along with her.

Colonel Piyapong Klinpan, a spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said yesterday that investigation found Tassanee’s connection to the production and distribution of the letters in Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Lampang.

He said her detention was in line with the law, adding that the NCPO had the power to detain suspects in such cases for seven days.

A group of Pheu Thai politicians, accompanied by officials from the Swiss Embassy, sought to visit Tassanee yesterday at the military camp. But officials at the base did not allow them to see her.

Key Pheu Thai figure Sudarat Keyuraphan called on the military yesterday to release Tassanee and her sister Tarnthip, a dentist, immediately and unconditionally. She said the sisters were being held without any charges and their arrest was part of the junta’s tactic to “create fear” in the run-up to the referendum.

Groups call for free debate on charter

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




Abhisit wants govt to reveal the next course of action draft is rejected.

SEVERAL prominent political and social figures, including Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajivayesterday endorsed a civil-society statement calling for freedom of expression on the draft charter.

He also called for the revealing of steps to be taken if the charter does not pass the referendum.

The Democrats’ official stance will come later this month after Abhisit returns from abroad, the party’s deputy leader Sathit Pitutecha said yesterday.

Abhisit took part in signing the statement, which was released yesterday by the Platform of Concerned Citizens (PCC), a new network of scholars and prominent figures of various fields, including politicians.

Abhisit said he hoped the declaration would benefit the referendum process, and maybe the powers-that-be could improve the atmosphere of suppression, he said.

The surrounding environment could be one thing the people consider before deciding whether or not to accept the constitution draft, the Democrat politician said.

The statement was issued by the PCC around two months after an earlier one viewed the referendum law as a strict regulation against freedom of expression.

Buntoon Srethasirote, a key member of the group, told The Nation that although the government seemed to loosen its grip on freedom of expression by allowing some debates, there were still other points – including future options – that had not yet been made clear enough to shape the people’s decisions. The PCC’s statement called for all sides to take a stance on the charter referendum process, jointly calling for it to be conducted freely and fairly.

It laid out five requests for those in authority. First, the network called for the rights of the people to be respected, and that they should be able to engage constructively in inclusive debates with accurate, comprehensive, and thorough information on the draft constitution.

Second, there should be a clearly defined choice offered to the people before the August 7 referendum, providing options in terms of a process for what happens if the draft is rejected.

Third, if the charter draft fails to pass the referendum, there should be a commitment to drafting a new constitution inclusively.

Fourth, if these three proposals have been adopted, all sides shall respect the result of the referendum, and jointly ensure peace and stability in society.

Last, Thailand’s future constitution must safeguard the dignity of human beings and the rights of the people to no less a degree than that addressed in past constitutions – ensuring fair checks and balances of the use of sovereign power, supporting measurable reforms and decentralisation. There should also be measures to prevent corruption and conflict from escalating into violence, as well as sections that allow flexibility and timely amendment of the constitution in accordance with the changes to society and the law.

Besides Abhisit’s endorsement, the statement has been signed by more than 130 prominent figures and civil organisations. Other prominent politicians included Pheu Thai’s Chaturon Chaisang,Sudarat Keyuraphan and Watana Muangsook as well as Chart Thai Pattana’s Somsak Prisananantakul and Nikorn Chamnong.

Sathit said he had signed the statement, adding that the public should be allowed to participate in the process.

Currently, many people do not give importance to the vote because the tight restrictions have made them feel they cannot do anything, leaving the referendum distant from them, he added.

Critics set conditions to join TV charter debate

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



New democracy group keen for public to pick topics, while iLaw join ‘if allocates equal time issues of interest’.

CRITICS of the draft constitution have conditionally agreed to take part in a televised debate to be organised by the Election Commission (EC).

The agreement is contingent on public participation in choosing the topics of debate and a fair allocation of time for both sides.

Some critics also want the debate to be aired during prime time.

The anti-charter New Democracy Movement (NDM) suggested yesterday that members of the public should pick the topics of the debate.

Meanwhile, the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) group said it was not sure on whether to take part, but may join if the topics of the planned debate are relevant to its field of expertise and if group representatives are given equal time to speak.

The responses came after EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said on Monday that a new television programme would be aired on Thai PBS the week before the August 7 referendum for supporters and critics of the draft charter to exchange views.

Somchai said anti-charter groups including NDM and iLaw would be invited to debate in the programme after heavy criticism was levelled that charter critics have not been given equal opportunity as charter proponents to express their viewpoints.

A non-profit organisation, iLaw has been calling on the EC to allow free campaigning and public participation in the run-up to the vote.

Key NDM member Rangsiman Rome said yesterday: “Yes, we’ll definitely accept the invitation [to debate the constitution]. All this time, we have always called for opportunities like this. There is no reason for us not to join the show.”

However, the activist said he was worried that the referendum was fast approaching and wanted the EC to speed up its work. “There is not much time left,” he said.

‘Show should air on all channels’

Rangsiman also said the show should allow public participation by letting ordinary people select topics for debate.

“It isn’t difficult and doesn’t take much time. We can have people vote for the topics they are interested in via Facebook. After all, we are doing this for them, right? So, they should be able to choose what information they want to know,” the activist said.

Yingcheep Atchanont, project manager of iLaw, said yesterday the group was not exactly “anti-charter” and he was not sure whether participation would be appropriate in the debate.

“The role of iLaw is not to move against the charter or anything. We just support and promote public participation and freedom of expression, making sure people have a voice to express their concerns,” he said.

Yingcheep did not completely rule out participating but set conditions for iLaw joining the event.

“We’ll have to see whether the topics relate to our work, such as rights and freedom or participation. If yes, we might do it. Also, we’ll have to be sure that we will be able to speak as much as our opposition,” he said.

The iLaw group and its allies have raised similar concerns to NDM – that anti-charter groups have not received the same opportunities to speak in EC-sponsored TV programmes on the charter that currently air every Monday and Wednesday.

Although charter critics have been allowed to take part in the programmes, they have complained that they have had less time than charter proponents to voice their opinions.

Pheu Thai politician Noppadon Patama, a former foreign minister, said the TV debate was a good start for protecting people’s right to information.

Many Pheu Thai politicians have spoken out against the charter draft and said they would vote against it.

However, Noppadon suggested that instead of airing the debate on only one channel from 1pm to 2pm, the show should be broadcast simultaneously on all channels during primetime from 6pm to 9pm. Otherwise, he feared the debate would not have much of an audience.

UN does not want to monitor referendum: CDC

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




Charter drafter spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni says the United Nations has not requested being allowed to observe the upcoming referendum on the constitution but believes the public should be allowed to participate in the process.

Norachit, as a representative of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), last week met with UN deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson in New York to inform him of the current situation regarding the new constitution ahead of the national plebiscite on August 7.

The veteran diplomat, who served as ambassador and permanent representative of Thailand to the UN, said he told Eliasson that the charter had been written in line with the country’s context.

Eliasson suggested that the public should be allowed to freely express their opinions on the charter, he said, stressing that the remark was not meant to be an intervention in the country’s internal affairs.

The CDC has a proactive plan to publicise the charter draft and the referendum.

For provincial and district levels, the CDC asked responsible agents to deliver essential documents to voters.

But it has been reported that the local mouthpieces for the dissemination of the charter to the public, the so-called Kru Khor (Teacher C), have not yet received the charter draft copies and other accompanying documents.

In addition, some articles and pages in the charter draft were in the wrong place, Election Commission deputy secretary general Thanit Sriprathet admitted yesterday.

He said however that only some 100 copies had the mistakes and they had been fixed.

The correct versions have been distributed to all districts, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that despite the issues, he believed responsible agents would be able to disseminate information in time.

He cited the previous referendum in 2007 as being successful when it also encountered similar problems.

Govt opens ‘order’ centres

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




Denies move is an attempt to monitor politicians ahead of August plebiscite.

THE government has started setting up centres at provincial and district levels nationwide to ensure that the August 7 referendum on the new charter runs smoothly.

Government Spokesperson Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the centres, the first of which were opened on Friday, were responsible for emergency planning, monitoring the situation and setting up checkpoints.

A crucial order was announced yesterday to facilitate the opening of the centres after there were movements by politicians ahead of the referendum process.

Sansern said the centres would seek information on activity that caused commotion, distorted the charter draft’s content or violated the referendum law, as well as handle matters in line with the public assembly bill.

The centres are run by the Interior Ministry with provincial branches directed by governors and district branches handled by local officials, Sansern added. The centres will deliver executive reports in the pre-referendum phase from now until August 6 and then in the post-referendum phase from August 8 to 10 or until the situation settles.

Sansern told The Nation that the centres’ establishment had nothing to do with political movement. They were set up because the referendum is around the corner, he said.

However, their establishment came after rival politicians last week said they wanted to hold talks to discuss ways to achieve reconciliation.

The plan was reportedly initiated by Pheu Thai veteran politician Sudarat Keyuraphan.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday that politicians should talk privately and “can do anything they like as long as it is not against the law”.

Colonel Piyapong Klinpan, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) deputy chief of public relations, said the NCPO would monitor any activities to ensure Thailand remained in order before the referendum date.

“We already have the referendum bill that bars any actions that can confuse the public [about the plebiscite],” Piyapong said. “I would like to ask politicians to let the Election Commission and the charter drafters carry out their duties as usual.”

The Democrat Party’s deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat said that he and Sudarat had agreed to hold talks informally and in private so politicians could express opinions comfortably and freely.

Nipit encouraged “non-extremist” academics to support the talks to lessen public doubt. He stressed that the talks were not meant to oppose the junta.

Pheu Thai member Group Captain Anudith Nakornthap agreed with holding talks but said that it should be staged openly to avoid public scepticism.

Both Nipit and Anudith said politicians should stop attacking one another so political hatred could be restrained.

Suriyasai Katasila, deputy rector of Rangsit University’s College of Social Innovation, said political issues were far too complicated to be solved by politicians merely talking.Suriyasai urged political parties to undergo reforms to regain public trust.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) co-leader Nattawut Saikua said the government’s order to set up the centres would raise public doubts over whether authorities wanted to ensure the referendum result was in their favour.

Nattawut also criticised the government for “copycatting” the UDD’s countrywide anti-fraud centres that aimed to monitor possible corruption during the referendum process. Many of the centres were shut down last month at their opening ceremonies as authorities said they broke the junta’s order banning political gatherings of more than four people.

“The government told us we didn’t have to set up the centres because the EC [Election Commission] is already in charge of tackling voting corruption,” the UDD figure said.

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said he did not know the details of the centres but would welcome them as the government was helping the EC keep the plebiscite process in order.

“People should not worry that the centres will infringe on their rights,” Somchai said. “They are certainly unaffected as long as they don’t aim to create a commotion.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva called on the prime minister, in his capacity as head of the NCPO, to ensure that the junta stays neutral in the referendum process.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Abhisit suggested that Prayut should withdraw state mechanisms deployed to help disseminate the charter content and adjust its stance on the matter because it was now viewed as a campaigner for referendum.