Call for penalties for opposing draft constitution

The Election Commission of Thailand has proposed penalties for people who distort facts about the draft constitution while the Royal Thai Army says it will help promote a correct understanding.   

According to Manager Online and Daily News, Thanit Sriprathet, a senior expert at the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), on Monday, 1 February 2016, announced that people will be allowed to express their approval or disapproval about the latest draft constitution via a public referendum.

He said that people can express their opinions about the draft constructively in public. However, he added that those who distort information about the draft, use rude language to criticise it, or incite people to oppose the draft might face penalties.

Thanit said that the ECT cannot set penalties against opponents of the draft who distort facts about it, but the Commission had already submitted a proposal for the government to enact a law about it.  

He did not give details about the penalties.

On the same day, the Thai News Agency reported Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokesperson of the Royal Thai Army, as saying that every division of the Royal Thai Army will help promote a right understanding about the draft constitution.

“The Commander of the Thai Army has ordered every division of the army to help promote a right understanding [about the draft constitution] among communities on a regular basis to keep people informed and updated,” said Sirichan. 

The draft constitution, written by the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) under the leadership of Meechai Ruchupan, faces criticism from many civil society groups and from Thailand’s two biggest parties, Pheu Thai and Democrat Party.

The People’s Council for Reform (PCR), a coalition of 78 civil society groups, concluded in a meeting yesterday that the draft constitution will suspend rights and liberties enshrined by previous constitutions.

Earlier, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, former deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Pheu Thai Party, said that the draft constitution might have been deliberately designed to be rejected in order to prolong the life of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the formal name of the Thai junta.