From the question of Britain’s place in Europe to the choice of New Zealand’s flag, referendums worldwide are usually preceded by unbridled debate. Not so under Thailand’s junta. Many Thais are chafing under strict new regulations governing discussion ahead of an Aug. 7 referendum on a military-backed constitution.

The junta that seized power in a May 2014 coup has already threatened to jail anyone campaigning for or against the constitution, which critics say entrenches the military’s political influence. The 14 rules, which were issued by the Election Commission and formally became law on Monday, make even well-meaning discussion risky, say academics and experts.

Under the regulations, Thais must express their opinions with “polite words … without distorting the facts”. “Rude, aggressive, or intimidating” interviews with the media are banned. So is organizing a panel discussion “with intent to incite political unrest”. READ MORE