.

THAILAND REFERENDUM, election.jpg
Thai workers carry ballot boxes in a preparation for the referendum on a new constitution at Ratchathewi District Office in Bangkok, Thailand, 06 August 2016. Some 50.6 million Thai voters are eligible to cast their votes in a referendum for the controversial military's backed draft constitution on 07 August 2016.
Photograph: EPA/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Thais were urged on Sunday by both major political parties and the ruling government to go to polls to decide on a junta-drafted constitution, the first democratic vote in the country since the military took power in May 2014.

Leaders from both parties and the junta were on hand to cast their ballot in front of press and supporters before noon on Sunday. They urged the rest of the country to do the same.

"I urge Thais to come out through rain, the more rain there is the more you should come vote," said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. "It is an historic decision, so let's make this a big turnout."

"If you do not come to vote, you are not taking advantage of your democratic rights," said former premier Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was ousted by the military. 

Former opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also urged citizens to come out to vote and worried about the possibility of low turn out. 

Local media reported several hiccups as Thais went to poll. In Laksi district in Northern Bangkok, several people were unable to find their name on voting lists. 

In Southern Thailand, security was tightened after several overnight bomb attacks targeted phone lines and electricity polls.

Authorities say that the events were unlikely in regards to the referendum and were more likely part of a long running seperatist insurgency. 

At one polling booth in Nonthaburi, 20 kilometers north of Bangkok, at least 20 people had arrived before the 8 am opening time to cast their ballot.

“I think it's important to be part of the democratic process as we have had no say for over two years. It's important for everyday citizens to have their voices heard,” said Chanya Nitikorn, a 42-year-old housewife.

Chanya and others, however, refused to discuss how they would vote citing several laws passed by the government which forbids public discussion of the charter.

A cadre of student activists, politicians and journalists have been arrested under the law for voicing disapproval of the proposed constitution.

Both main political parties have come out against a yes-vote with Abhisit and Yingluck openly saying they would vote against the charter.

Detractors argue that the charter would prolong military rule by allowing for a fully appointed upper house of parliament and provisions for an unelected prime minister.

The military deny the accusations, saying such measures are necessary to ensure checks and balance for the country’s political system and to end corruption.

The junta say that if the constitution passes on Sunday, elections could happen as early as mid-2017. It has refused calls by politicians and activists to elaborate on what would happen if the constitution is rejected.

Related stories

Latest news

Croatian MEP says Moscow wants to influence in western Balkans

Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic said in an interview with the Montenegrin Pobjeda daily on Thursday that Moscow is trying to exploit the political forces in Montenegro and that Russia's meddling in Montenegro's internal affairs was "unacceptable behaviour."

New York Times launches brand campaign for "The Truth" with Oscars ad

The New York Times is using Sunday's Academy Awards show to launch an advertising drive with an ad spot that capitalizes on President Donald Trump's confrontational relationship with the paper and other mainstream media.

Dutch populist Wilders won't publicly campaign after security fiasco

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) won't make public appearances in support of its election campaign after a security official assigned to protect party founder Geert Wilders was detained by police.

Peace Implementation Council Steering Board calls for defusing tensions in Bosnia

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met on Thursday, expressing the international community's concern about the situation in the country and calling on local politicians to act rationally to prevent an escalation of the crisis after a motion was submitted to review an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in BiH's case against Serbia for genocide.

Trump blasts Mexico as top diplomat holds talks in Mexico City

US President Donald Trump expressed ambivalence about the US relationship with Mexico as he blasted the country Thursday for what he claims is an unfair trade relationship.

Croat accused of rioting at UEFA 2016 game goes on trial

The trial of Ivan Vucenovic, 21, accused of causing rioting during a European soccer championship match between Croatia and the Czech Republic in Saint Etienne, France last June, began at the Sibenik Municipal Court on Thursday.

Schools blocked, 26 arrests in Paris protests against police abuses

Hundreds of young people took to the streets of Paris on Thursday in protests against alleged police brutality, with local media reporting that 16 secondary schools were forced to shut.

Aid agency: 13 dead among dozens trapped in Libya container

The bodies of 13 migrants were found along with dozens of survivors trapped inside a transport container in Libya's western town of Khoms, an aid agency said Thursday.

Strike grounds hundreds of Alitalia flights

Employees of loss-making Italian airline Alitalia walked off the job Thursday after government-mediated talks failed to break the deadlock, causing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights.

Bosnia requests review of ICJ judgement that exonerating Serbia

Bosnia and Herzegovina's legal counsel Sakib Softic on Thursday submitted a request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, for a review of a judgement in the genocide suit against Serbia.

Frljic: Warsaw play big hit, ascribes criticism to conservative repression

The media have reported that Polish prosecutors on Wednesday began investigating Frljic's play, which the Catholic Church and the conservative community in Poland have called "blasphemous". 

Germany's record surplus sets off debate about using extra cash

Germany's budget surplus continued to grow last year, reaching its highest level since the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990 and setting off a debate about what to do with the extra cash.