Harsh punishments planned for referendum 'disrupters'

Harsh punishments planned for referendum 'disrupters'

Students demonstrate against the draft charter in the presence of university rector Somkit Lertpaithoon, left, at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus in Pathum Thani province on Tuesday. (Photo by Chairat Patcharatrirat)
Students demonstrate against the draft charter in the presence of university rector Somkit Lertpaithoon, left, at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus in Pathum Thani province on Tuesday. (Photo by Chairat Patcharatrirat)

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is planning 10-year prison sentences and huge fines for any deemed to be disrupting the referendum on the draft constitution.

Jate Siratharanon, spokesman of the NLA whip committee, said on Wednesday that the proposed penalties are included in the referendum bill the assembly will consider for second and third readings on Thursday.

A jail term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and years of suspended electoral rights would be imposed on any party judged by the regime as having disrupted the Aug 7 vote, Mr Jate said.

The bill defines such disruptive parties as those creating disorder, telling lies, and using force to prompt eligible voters not to vote, to vote in any way or to choose the no-vote option in the upcoming referendum.

Specifically, it covers those disseminating any text, picture or voice message via any media that is false, aggressive, rude, instigating or coercive in order to persuade eligible voters not to vote, to vote in a particular way or to choose the no-vote option in the referendum.

The bill recommends a court suspend electoral rights of a violator for up to five years. For a group of five violators and over, the electoral right suspension can last up to 10 years, Mr Jate said.

On Tuesday students protested against the draft charter when Meechai Ruchupan, head of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), was speaking on the draft at the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University in Pathum Thani province.

CDC spokesman Udom Rathamarit said on Wednesday the disturbance was unexpected and reflected that "the constitutional draft is so scary for opponents that they had to take such actions."

The CDC knew that some political parties might not like the draft and had not taken part in the drafting process, he said.

Mr Meechai said earlier that the draft was designed to effectively keep corrupt people away from politics.

Pheu Thai Party key figure Chaturon Chaisaeng said on Wednesday that the students' protest only was an expression of opinions and resulted from limitations on expressions from people disagreeing with the draft.


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