EC files charges over Facebook group's 'foul' charter critique

EC files charges over Facebook group's 'foul' charter critique

Election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn on Wednesday files charges against an unnamed Facebook group for a “foul and harsh” critique of the draft constitution. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn on Wednesday files charges against an unnamed Facebook group for a “foul and harsh” critique of the draft constitution. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Election Commission on Wednesday filed charges against a Facebook group for posting "foul and strong" comments online criticising the draft constitution, the first case filed under a new law prohibiting campaigning on the charter.

The complaint was filed by commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn against the unnamed, Khon Kaen-based group with Pol Lt Col Winij Srisungnoen, chief investigator of Thung Song Hong police in Bangkok.

He said the group had posted a message on its Facebook page with aggressive, harsh and rude language to urge readers to vote against the draft constitution to be put to a public vote Aug 7.

"They posted comments on Facebook using foul and strong language," Reuters reported Mr Somchai as telling reporters after filing the charges. "We want them to be an example. From now on, people should talk about the constitution using reason."

The group's message has since been deleted, but a copy was saved. Police would summon people concerned for questioning, he said.

The post was a clear violation of Section 61 of the Referendum Act enacted Friday, under which violators are subject to jail terms of up to 10 years and fines of up to 200,000 baht. They also could be banned from elections for five years, he said.

Mr Somchai said people can post a message to show their intention to vote for or against the draft, based on academic points of view. But they should not resort to using aggressive or rude words in a way to influence others to vote in one way or another.

People who came across such messages can file a complaint at all police stations, not only with the EC, he said.

Mr Somchai said the police complaint filed today was intended to remind the public to speak of the draft constitution in a constructive manner.

Groups on both sides of the political divide have denounced the draft constitution as undemocratic.

The UN human rights chief last week urged the military government to curtail "dangerously sweeping" powers enshrined in the draft charter and urged the government to "actively encourage, rather than discourage" dialogue on the draft.

Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher in Thailand for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters a "climate of fear" was growing in the country ahead of the referendum.

"The junta is mobilising state machinery and everything is being used to promote the draft constitution while people who oppose the draft are being targeted," said Mr Sunai.


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