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Thai constitution vote highlights power of military faction

Soldiers from the Chakkrapong army camp line up to vote in the Aug. 7 constitutional referendum. (Photo by Marwaan Macan-Markar)

PRACHIN BURI, Thailand -- The Thai military is a dominant presence in Prachin Buri, a small agricultural town two hours east of Bangkok. The sturdy entrance to Promyotee Fort, the headquarters of Second Infantry Division, overlooks a market of single stalls. The layout of the town, with its narrow roads, is built around the sprawling, well-maintained army camps, such as Chakkrapong, where armed soldiers in fatigues guard the entrance, which has a sign in English: "Strong army, stable country."

On Aug. 7, a majority of Thai voters appeared to have heeded that sentiment by approving a referendum that allows the ruling military regime to remain in power. The referendum consisted of two questions. One was whether voters approved the country's latest constitution, its 20th since 1932, which was drafted by a military-appointed committee. Voters were also asked whether they approved allowing the current military junta to fill the Senate with its appointees and give them the power to select the next prime minister.

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