Thai leader says won't resign if referendum rejects charter

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2016 8:00 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — The head of Thailand's military government said Monday he will not step down if an August referendum fails to approve a draft constitution it is promoting.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was responding to a reporter's question of whether he would emulate Britain's David Cameron, who announced he would resign by October after UK voters in June 23's Brexit referendum rejected his position endorsing staying in the European Union.

Leaders of Thailand's Pheu Thai party, whose government was deposed by a military coup led by Prayuth in May 2014, had suggested he follow Cameron's example and resign if the draft constitution does not pass in the Aug. 7 vote. The party opposes the draft as undemocratic.

Prayuth said he had no intention of leaving, because Britain did not have the same problems as Thailand — a reference to the political disorder and violence in the Southeast Asian country over the past decade — and because, unlike Cameron, he did not come to office by election.

"It's a different story," Prayuth said. "Why, do you want me to leave or what? I'm not leaving. I'm the one who sets the rules. He didn't come to power like me. Their country doesn't have the same problems as ours."

The government has tough rules limiting campaigning for either a yes or no vote on the draft charter, but is inconsistent in interpreting and enforcing them. Violators could be subject to a 10-year prison term. While technically even-handed, the restrictions are obviously aimed at opponents of the draft.

Students opposed to charter were arrested last week for attempting to hand out leaflets urging a 'no' vote, while the government has said it is considering what to do about supporters and opponents of the charter who have recently used Facebook Live broadcasts to express their opinions.