Thai PM 'won't resign' if charter blocked in referendum

Junta leader insists won’t follow example of UK’s Cameron by resigning if Thais reject draft charter in Aug. 7 referendum

Thai PM 'won't resign' if charter blocked in referendum

World Bulletin / News Desk

Thailand’s junta leader-cum-Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha insisted Monday that he would not resign if a draft constitution written by a military-appointed committee is rejected in a referendum planned for August 7.

When asked about British Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of his resignation after losing the referendum on the United Kingdom’s European Union membership, Chan-ocha responded that the situation in the two countries could not be compared.

“Do you want me to resign? I won’t,” the Bangkok Post quoted him saying at a daily press briefing. “I set the rules. He [Cameron] did not come up like I did. His country does not have the same problems as our country.”

Since Cameron announced following the Brexit vote that he would leave office by the time of his party’s conference in October, Thailand’s military government has been attempting to counter calls that Chan-ocha resign if the draft constitution does not pass the August referendum.

Its spokesman Gen. Sansern Kaewkmanerd also insisted Saturday that the U.K. referendum was “different” than that due to be held in Thailand after a May 2014 coup overthrew the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

“Unlike Thailand, Britain had no protesters attempting to disrupt the referendum,” he said.

Small groups of student activists have organized limited, sporadic protests to express their opposition to the draft charter.

Some of them have been arrested and charged with breaching a junta decree banning political gatherings of more than five people.

Since Cameron’s announcement, Thai politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have been comparing the Brexit vote to the upcoming Thai referendum.

Over the weekend, former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, currently the leader of the conservative Democrat Party, praised Cameron for “his graciousness in defeat”.

He told the Post that Thai voters should also not feel compelled to take sides on Aug. 7, and that Thailand’s rulers should not exhibit partially toward either the supporters or opponents of the draft charter.

Meanwhile, a former energy minister from the Puea Thai party -- the political vehicle for the Shinawatra clan -- said, “the government, particularly the prime minister, should take a lesson from David Cameron and resign if the draft is shot down in the referendum.”

Pichai Naripthaphan added that democracy must be restored to Thailand “as quickly as possible” so the Southeast Asian country can “be better equipped to deal with the global economic repercussions” after the Leave campaign won 52 percent of the vote in the U.K.

Also speaking to the Post, former Senate speaker Nikom Wairatpanij described the military government as “not brave enough to show responsibility” if the draft charter is rejected.

Chan-ocha has repeatedly expressed his unwillingness to remain as prime minister any “longer than necessary”, insisting he was “sacrificing himself for the country” -- remarks conflicting with several analysts’ observations that he would prefer to retain his hold on power.

The draft constitution has been criticized by party leaders on both sides of the political spectrum, as well as by academics and media. The draft allows for a senate fully-appointed by the junta and for a non-elected “outsider” to become prime minister.

Junta opponents fear that such a system will allow a military officer or a civilian acting on behalf of the military to become premier.

The electoral commission, an official agency, has banned all criticisms of the draft charter, along with the wearing of T-shirts calling for voters to reject the draft at the referendum.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Haziran 2016, 16:35