Thailand heads for Guinness record with upcoming referendum

Thailand heads for Guinness record with upcoming referendum - DPA, July 18, 2007
Thailand could enter the Guinness Book of World Records next month for holding the world's first referendum to pass a constitution after giving the population less than a month to prepare for it, Thai academics say...


[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from just a few years ago, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

Thailand heads for Guinness record with upcoming referendum

By DPA

Bangkok : Thailand could enter the Guinness Book of World Records next month for holding the world's first referendum to pass a constitution after giving the population less than a month to prepare for it, Thai academics say.

On Aug 19, the Thai people will decide in a national referendum whether to accept a new charter drafted by the military-appointed Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDF).

The assembly, which finished drafting Thailand's latest constitution June 28, will distribute 19 million copies of the document to 19 million families nationwide by July 19 and will commence educating the public on the contents of the charter as of July 31, said Kiatchai Pongpanich, a member of the CDF.

The Constitution Drafting Assembly will have only 19 days to inform the public about the new constitution, a lengthy and complex document containing 339 articles.

The referendum, Thailand's first, was required under an interim constitution put in place by the military junta that staged the Sep 19, 2006 coup that toppled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"This is the first time in the world that there will be a referendum to accept a constitution," said Siripon Nogsuan, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.

"The Guinness Book of World Records can say we have been given the shortest time to study the longest constitution," Siripon told a seminar. "No country can hold a referendum in such a short period on such a long document. In Europe, a referendum would require two to six months to study the issue beforehand."

Siripon was echoing concerns raised by many political scientists and diplomats based in Thailand, that the current military-appointed government has not provided enough time to inform the public about the new constitution, which has been widely criticized for weakening the political party system.

"We realize that this is quite a short time frame for the public to go through 339 articles of the final draft but the interim constitution stipulates that not less than 15 days or more than 30 days should be spent scrutinizing the draft," said Kiatchai.

If the new constitution - Thailand's 18th since a clique of Young Turk military officers overthrew the absolute monarchy in 1932 - is approved by referendum, Thailand is expected to hold an election by November or December, this year.

If it is voted down, an election will still be held, although the time frame will be less certain.
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