Thailand referendum voters on Sunday supported a draft of a new Constitution submitted by a military-appointed counsel, according to unofficial numbers [BBC report]. Although the turnout was low, a clear majority has determined the document will help restore stability in the country, while those against the draft believe it will entrench the military’s control. Prior to the vote, protests and campaigns against the draft were outlawed, and many activists were detained. The voters also supported a measure that will involve a completely appointed 250-seat Senate in selecting a prime minister, whereas the previous Senate was roughly half elected officials.
Human rights groups worldwide have expressed growing concern over violations in Thailand since the military junta came to power in May 2014. Thai military officials in July charged three human rights defenders [JURIST report] with criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crimes Act because of a report they published detailing acts of torture in Thailand. In March Human Rights Watch urged [JURIST report] Thailand to stop harassing and charging human right lawyers for defending victims of the government’s abuses. Also in March the Pheu Thai Party filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights over the detention of one of its key figures, Watana Muangsook, accusing the government of serious human rights violations. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on the Thai government to fully investigate [JURIST report] the whereabouts of at least 82 people listed as disappeared and criminalize forced disappearance through legislation. That same month, Thailand unveiled the new draft constitution [JURIST report], which human rights groups stated was aimed at increasing the power of the military under the guise of clauses intended to promote national security permitting them to commit human rights abuses without fear of punishment in violation of international treaties.