Election Com to sue people sharing, involving in charter referendum MV

A Thai Election Commissioner has said that those involved in the production of a well-known Facebook page featuring a music video on the referendum might be prosecuted, alleging that the song is rude.

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), on Wednesday, 8 June 2016, announced that the ECT will investigate a music video about the referendum on the junta-sponsored draft constitution as it might violate the Referendum Act, Matichon Online reported.

He said that a well-known Facebook page recently posted the music video with the caption ‘good work must be shared’, adding it reportedly contains rude language and distorts facts about the draft constitution. Therefore, it might be illegal under Article 61 of the Referendum Act.

“The identity of the performers in the music video must be investigated. If it was performed before 23 April 2016 (the day when the Referendum Act came into force), it will not be an offence,” Matichon quoted Somchai as saying.

The Election Commissioner, however, added that people who shared the music video on social media after 23 April might also have violated the Act.

According to the Thai News Agency, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, on Tuesday told the media that not all articles of the controversial Referendum Act are problematic, adding that the Act could be amended.

Asked by media whether it was true, as claimed by Jatuporn Prompan, leader of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main faction of the anti-establishment red shirts, that the ECT has spent over 10 billion baht on the upcoming draft constitution referendum, he said that the cabinet allocated only a 3 billion baht budget for the referendum.

Last week, Raksagecha Chaechai, Secretary-General of the Office of the Ombudsman, announced that the Ombudsman’s Office will submit a request to the Constitutional Court to rule whether the 2016 Referendum Act is unconstitutional or not.    

He said that Ombudsman’s Office has concluded that Article 61 of the Referendum Act allows the authorities to suppress critics of the junta-sponsored draft constitution because it is written ambiguously.

Article 61 of the Referendum Act imposes a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years on anyone who publishes or distributes content about the draft constitution which deviates from the facts, contains rude and violent language, or threateningly discourages voters from participating in the referendum.

“Even though ultimately, the courts have the authority to consider cases [of offences against the Referendum Act], people are already affected,” said Raksagecha.