Regime vague on Pheu Thai anti-charter posts
published : 16 Jun 2016 at 04:00
updated: 16 Jun 2016 at 22:20
newspaper section: News
The government refused on Wednesday to clarify the referendum law and say whether 17 Pheu Thai politicians violated the law by posting on Facebook reasons why they intend to reject the draft charter.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said he would allow the Election Commission (EC) to handle the matter and determine if the politicians violated the law.
It would be inappropriate for him to comment on the matter as he did not know exactly what the Pheu Thai politicians did, he said, adding that anyone may petition the EC to investigate the matter or if the EC is already aware of the issue, it can initiate a probe without a formal petition.
Among the 17 Pheu Thai politicians are former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, party secretary Phumtham Wechayachai and former education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng.
- Earlier report: Details of Pheu Thai Facebook posts
"Authorities such as the EC will have to look into the matter first, irrespective of any further action," said Mr Wissanu.
Although it is not stated in the referendum law that the EC could be a plaintiff in a case, the EC is the government agency with the scope of work most relevant to the matter, he said.
Somjate Boonthanom, a former chairman of the National Legislative Assembly's committee vetting the referendum bill, said the Pheu Thai move could violate Section 61 of the referendum law as the remarks did not appear to be honest.
"The Pheu Thai politicians' messages on their Facebook pages appeared to be manipulative and intended to incite unrest during the referendum," said Gen Somjate.
Even though they acted separately, they appeared to work together and, as such, their action is prohibited by the referendum law as it means five or more people colluded to provoke unrest, he said.
If found guilty, the politicians may face between one and 10 years in jail, a fine of between 20,000 and 200,000 baht, and an election ban for 10 years, he added.
A Pheu Thai source said the party only aimed to communicate to the public that it is a personal right to freely express opinions for, or against, the draft charter.
The posts were shared Wednesday as a prelude to the referendum, said the source, adding if the comments violated the referendum law, then the 17 politicians should be sent for "attitude adjustment".