Voters back controversial new constitution ordered by Thailand junta

Voters back controversial new constitution ordered by Thailand junta

Voters have approved a new junta-backed constitution in a referendum in Thailand.

The Thai Electoral Commission said the constitution would lay the foundation for a civilian government influenced by the military and controlled by appointed rather than elected officials.

Critics say it is designed to allow the military government to stay in control.

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said that with 91% of the votes counted, the "yes" camp received 61.5% of the votes, while 38.44% voted "no" in Sunday's referendum.

He said counting will stop when 95% of the votes have been tallied.

The turnout was only 55% of the 50 million eligible voters.

The junta came to power in a May 2014 coup and ordered the constitution rewritten.

The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a retired army general, used its sweeping powers to ban political rallies and independent campaigns against the draft constitution and allowed virtually no debates on it.

Opponents say this was done to ensure that people would have little knowledge about the constitution's provisions.

More than 100 people who tried to campaign against the referendum on social media have been thrown in jail, and open criticism has been made punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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