Thailand defends referendum as ‘free and fair’

Bangkok, Aug 10 (IANS) Responding to the slew of criticism ahead of a constitutional referendum in the country, Thai authorities on Wednesday defended the vote as “free and fair”, media reported.

A majority of voters approved the junta-backed Constitution in Sunday’s referendum, following which the European Union and the US denounced the restrictions on free speech imposed by the junta in the run-up to the vote in which more than 100 opponents were detained, Efe news reported.

Brussels said “there were serious limitations to fundamental freedoms” during the campaign while Washington underlined its concern for the exclusive drafting process and denounced that “open debate was not permitted in the run-up to its adoption”.

The Thailand Foreign Ministry said the referendum was conducted in a “free, fair and transparent manner, in accordance with internationally accepted practices and standards as well as internal legislative requirements”.

The ministry said the government “voluntarily” included the referendum as part of a “roadmap” to encourage public participation in shaping Thailand’s future.

“Citizens were free to express opinions regarding the draft in good faith and in accordance with the laws … none of these critics has disputed the outcome of the vote,” the statement said.

The head of the military junta and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha responded on Sunday, after the vote, criticising “inappropriate intervention by foreign elements”.

“All these interferences have inevitably led us to have contempt for the sentiments of those who claim to be ‘friends’ of Thailand,” said the head of the junta.

The Electoral Commission was scheduled to announce the definitive result of the referendum on Wednesday. The provisional data showed the new constitution poll received 61.4 per cent in favour and 38.6 per cent against.

The outcome of the referendum facilitates general elections which will be held in 2017, according to what the Prime Minister, in power since the coup in 2014, reiterated on Tuesday.



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