Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 39, Number 1, April 2017
- pp. 65-95
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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.