Thailand’s ruling junta got what it wanted on August 7: the public approval of a constitution that will reinforce military rule in the country. The same constitution also contains provisions that could further curtail the people’s right to freedom of expression.
Some are questioning the result of the referendum because the opposition was prevented by the government from campaigning against the draft constitution. The junta has passed an absurd law criminalizing any activity that could persuade the people to vote in favor or against the constitution. This law was invoked in detaining more than 100 individuals accused of spreading lies and undermining the stability of the country.
A day after the approval of the constitution, the European Union and the U.S. State Department urged Thailand to lift restrictions on civil liberties, especially concerning freedom of expression, to jumpstart the country’s democratic transition. But even if Thailand renews its pledge to honor media freedom, its new constitution institutionalizes a culture of censorship and state control over the media sector.
Thailand’s New Constitution: A Threat to Religious Freedom?
Thailand’s new constitution, approved by majority of voters last month, threatens to undermine religious harmony in the country because of a provision that mandates the state to promote Theravada Buddhism.
Section 67 of the constitution is seen by some religious leaders as being biased in favor of Buddhism because it orders the state to protect Buddhism, “which has long been professed by the Thai people.”
Thailand’s new constitution is supposed to boost the government’s national reconciliation program and engender unity in the country. But the clause on religion has already caused division because of its perceived bias against the religion of minority groups. Worse, the proposed remedy of the government could stifle religious freedom by prescribing the teaching of “correct” Buddhism.