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Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum

Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum Abstract: Thailand’s August 2016 constitutional referendum marked the second occasion on which a military junta has sought popular endorsement to legitimize its efforts to reform the country’s political system. As in the previous referendum of August 2007, Thai voters endorsed military plans to reduce levels of democracy. Draconian moves by the regime curtailed open debate about the content of the draft constitution, which virtually nobody had read. Partly as a result of the junta’s suppression of dissent, “No” votes declined — but the draft charter was still opposed by almost 40 per cent of voters, testifying to continuing high levels of political polarization along regional lines. This article argues that the referendum process may have helped the military to impose order on Thai society during the difficult period of royal transition, but did not create any genuine peace between the country’s fractious competing groups and interests. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum


Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 39, No. 1 (2017), pp. 65–95 DOI: 10.1355/cs39-1b © 2017 ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute ISSN 0129-797X print / ISSN 1793-284X electronic Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum Duncan Mccargo, Saowanee T. Alexander and Petra Desatova Thailand’s August 2016 constitutional referendum marked the second occasion on which a military junta has sought popular endorsement to legitimize its efforts to reform the country’s political system. As in the previous referendum of August 2007, Thai voters endorsed military plans to reduce levels of democracy. Draconian moves by the regime curtailed open debate about the content of the draft constitution, which virtually nobody had read. Partly as a result of the junta’s suppression of dissent, No votes declined — but the draft charter was still opposed by almost 40 per cent of voters, testifying to continuing high levels of political polarization along regional lines. This article argues that the referendum process may have helped the military to impose order on Duncan McCargo is Professor of Political Science at the University of Leeds, UK; and Visiting Professor of Political Science at Columbia University in the City of New York. Postal address: School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK; email: d.j.mccargo@leeds.ac.uk. Saowanee T. Alexander is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University, Thailand. Postal address: Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University, Warinchamrap, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, 34190; email: saowanee.alexander@gmail.com. Petra Desatova is a PhD student at the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, UK. Postal address: School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK; email:...
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Publisher
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Copyright
Copyright © The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
ISSN
1793-284X
Publisher site
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Abstract

Abstract: Thailand’s August 2016 constitutional referendum marked the second occasion on which a military junta has sought popular endorsement to legitimize its efforts to reform the country’s political system. As in the previous referendum of August 2007, Thai voters endorsed military plans to reduce levels of democracy. Draconian moves by the regime curtailed open debate about the content of the draft constitution, which virtually nobody had read. Partly as a result of the junta’s suppression of dissent, “No” votes declined — but the draft charter was still opposed by almost 40 per cent of voters, testifying to continuing high levels of political polarization along regional lines. This article argues that the referendum process may have helped the military to impose order on Thai society during the difficult period of royal transition, but did not create any genuine peace between the country’s fractious competing groups and interests.

Journal

Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic AffairsInstitute of Southeast Asian Studies

Published: May 5, 2017

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