PDRC, Red Shirts under probe for talking about draft charter

The deputy junta head ordered the authorities to launch investigations into the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the anti-establishment red shirts for announcing their stands on the draft constitution.  

Thai News Agency reported on Monday, 25 April 2016, that Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the deputy junta head and Defence Minister, told the media that no one is allowed to criticise the junta-sponsored draft constitution publicly as the Draft Referendum Act is already in force.

Both Suthep Thaugsuban, former leader of the now-defunct PDRC and current leader of the People’s Foundation for Thailand’s Reform (PFTR), and the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) will be probed for announcing their stands on the draft constitution, said the deputy junta head.

When asked by the media whether the penalty against those opposing the draft is too heavy, Gen Prawit said that it is enacted to prevent conflicts and instability.

“[We] don’t prohibit [people] from talking or stating their thoughts, but it must not be in public,” the Thai News Agency quoted the deputy junta head as saying.

Yesterday, Suthep told the media that he approves of the draft constitution written by the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), saying the draft will provide a way out of the nation’s political conundrum and bring about political reform towards ‘true democracy’.

The UDD, on the same day, held a press briefing. At the briefing the UDD avoided discussing the draft constitution, but said that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) should allow people to criticise the draft constitution freely.

Jatuporn Prompan, the UDD President, said that the Referendum Act, which came into force last week, is written ambiguously, leaving people unsure whether they could publicly criticise the draft constitution or not.  

Under Article 61 of the Referendum Act, “anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, will be considered as a person creating confusion so that the vote will not proceed properly.” The penalty is a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 200,000 baht.

The bill also prohibits publication of any poll or survey relating on the result of the referendum close to voting day.