EC endorses 18 foreign observation teams for referendum

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Foreign observers will play an important role in keeping an eye the referendum, local watchdogs said yesterday ahead of the foreign observation programme, which will kick off on Friday.

The Election Commission (EC) has endorsed at least 18 foreign representatives to observe the event and they may even be allowed to go inside the polling booths. However, domestic watchdogs have received no accreditation for the job, prompting concerns that the observation may be discriminatory and incomplete.

However, domestic observers told The Nation that those given the right to go into polling booths will help contribute to critical observation.

Domestic watchdogs such as “We Watch” and the “Open Forum for Democracy Foundation” [PNET] are keen on watching the voting process and possible fraud in the referendum. However, the referendum law does not allow them to do so, a source from PNET said. The source also said that no local watchdogs had asked for the accreditation, as they knew they would not be approved.

A source from the EC said the accredited foreign monitoring organisations include the election commissions from Bhutan and Timor-Leste as well as the Asia Foundation.

“The foreign observers could monitor preparations for the referendum, as well as the voting and counting process. However, they cannot observe inside the polling booths,” he pointed out.

Though certain foreign observers have joined the observation programme organised by the EC, Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation [Anfrel] has chosen not to, Pongsak Chan-on, Thailand programme coordinator for Anfrel, said.

He added that though Anfrel had applied for the observation permit, the EC took far too long to respond, which made it too late for it to prepare for the observation process, he said.

Hence, Anfrel has decided to become an unofficial observer and will use its own mechanisms to observe the voting process.

He said the EC’s first-time use of the Rapid Report App has also raised major concerns about the referendum’s transparency as no observes are allowed to watch when the authorities key in voting results.

“We cannot observe the use of the voting result report app by the authorities. So, how can we be sure that the result reported is accurate and transparent?” he asked.

Referendum jitters

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Three boys on Sunday show an official the site where they said a group of some 10 wild monkeys tore down a list of voters for the charter referendum from the boards at a polling booth in a temple in Phichit’s Muang district yesterday.

An investigation found that the animals from a forest behind the temple compound had destroyed 12 sheets of the paper. Meanwhile, in Si Sa Ket province, officials seized paper flags with “Ga No” written on them. They believed that a group of people wanted to cause trouble by urging people to vote no in the August 7 referendum, as the words could mean “choosing no”. However it turned out to be the flags directing participants to a meeting of a company that sells “Ga Nobrand” coffee.


Fake draft drama blessing in disguise: Wissanu

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Following a meeting with charter drafters at Parliament yesterday, Election Commission member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn says no action will be taken over a booklet on the draft constitution. Chief drafter Meechai Ruchupan, however, has called it a “fake book

Following a meeting with charter drafters at Parliament yesterday, Election Commission member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn says no action will be taken over a booklet on the draft constitution. Chief drafter Meechai Ruchupan, however, has called it a “fake book

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday the crisis over the spread of a fake charter draft should be turned into an opportunity to increase public interest about the upcoming referendum on the real draft.

“People who do not yet know what is happening will know that we are holding a referendum on the charter,” he said.

He said officials had discovered that copies of the fake charter draft were delivered by post to constituents in the North and Northeast.

Thousands of the fakes were delivered by post in Chiang Mai districts. They distort the draft in relation to alleged deprivation of important rights.

The fake charter claimed that the draft might eliminate several rights including free universal healthcare because it said only the poor would be eligible for the scheme.


It also said many people aged over 60 years might lose welfare benefits because the state would support only people whose incomes were not adequate to live on.

The fake draft stated that free education for the last three years of secondary school students might also be scrapped.


Anti-charter letters found in Lampang

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


letters at a post office in Lampang’s Muang |district. An attempt has been made to send thousands of them to households in Chiang Mai and Lampang, with messages criticising the charter draft.

letters at a post office in Lampang’s Muang |district. An attempt has been made to send thousands of them to households in Chiang Mai and Lampang, with messages criticising the charter draft.

Military and police officers examine letters at a post office in Lampang’s Muang |district. An attempt has been made to send thousands of them to households in Chiang Mai and Lampang, with messages criticising the charter draft.

Military and police officers examine letters at a post office in Lampang’s Muang |district. An attempt has been made to send thousands of them to households in Chiang Mai and Lampang, with messages criticising the charter draft.

Targeted at households, they urged voters to reject draft in referendum.

THOUSANDS of anti-constitution letters violating Article 61 of the Referendum Act were found in Lampang province last week.

A provincial Election Commission (EC) officer said they appeared to be bound for households in the North’s Chiang Mai and Lampang Provinces in an attempt to encourage voters to vote against the charter.

Local election commission officers and police examined the letters, which had been intercepted by post offices, and found they carried messages attacking the constitution draft scheduled to enter a referendum next month, the officer told The Nation. Officials are currently investigating, after the EC lodged a police complaint, to find out the origin of the letters. It is expected police will identify the sender within two or three days, he said.

More than 2,000 letters were intercepted, found in post boxes around Lampang by postmen suspicious of such a volume of similar letters. They bore no senders’ name or address on the envelopes, only the recipients’ in Chiang Mai and Lampang.


The letters reportedly tried to persuade voters that the constitution would take away some welfare provisions – such as free universal healthcare, the elderly pension, or free education. Also, they claimed if voters voted yes to the additional question, the Senate would be able to jointly choose at least two prime ministers as the Senate’s term is five years.

The contents of the letters were the same as in the anti-charter booklets found in Chiang Mai last week, the local EC officer claimed.

The upper northern part of Thailand, especially Chiang Mai and Lampang, is widely recognised as a stronghold of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda said that interior officers in both provinces had already coordinated with other concerned authorities and they all would proceed with the case in line with the law.

The recently set-up centre for keeping peace and order during the referendum would also be alert for more similar violations, the minister said. So far, there had not been any further reports, he said, adding he wanted the public to be aware where they could receive true information, primarily from government offices and the EC-sponsored media.

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said he had seen the letters and in his view they were against the referendum law. He said currently there were underground movements against the charter which were influencing voters. One way to solve the problem was to allow everyone to speak openly [about the draft], he said.

Somchai said he would propose the idea to the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) today as they would meet to discuss offences against the referendum law which were growing as the voting day approached.

Among items under scrutiny were booklets now in circulation. They would see whether they violated the Referendum Act and how to proceed if violations were found.

Somchai said the CDC could file complaints itself, or the EC could proceed in accordance with the law, or both agencies could decide not to take any action at all. The fastest way would be to have the CDC file complaints itself because the EC would take weeks to decide how to proceed with each case, Somchai added.

Meanwhile, the professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) yesterday issued a statement calling on authorities to drop charges against a Prachatai online journalist alleged of breaching the referendum law.

The statement reads that the club was concerned at the detention and charging of Taweesak Kerdpoka, a journalist with the independent news website Prachatai. Taweesak was arrested on July 10 after being found on a pick -up truck carrying alleged anti-charter booklets along with members of the New Democracy Movement, an anti-coup student group, in Ratchaburi’s Ban Pong district. He was released on bail but has been charged with violating the referendum law, along with the activists. His office at Prachatai, an online news agency in Bangkok, was searched for related evidence on Tuesday.

“It is not unusual for journalists to accompany or travel with newsmakers and interviewees. As a reporter covering human and environmental rights, Mr Taweesak was merely doing his job” the FCCT’s statement read. “The FCCT is concerned that arresting and charging him sets an alarming precedent for media freedom, and calls on Thai authorities to withdraw the charges against him.”

Prior to the FCCT’s statement, local media organisations – the Thai Journalists Association and Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, as well as international groups like Reporters Without Borders – issued similar statements calling for the withdrawal of the charges.


PM invites reds to join ‘order’ centres

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




Critics accuse NCPO of bias, question motives behind ‘peacekeeping’ offices.

THE PREMIER YESTERDAY invited red-shirt members and other civil society groups to join newly established government peacekeeping centres for the upcoming referendum on the draft constitution.

However, General Prayut Chan-o-cha dismissed a claim by the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) that the government’s “Centres for Maintaining Peace and Order” copy the group’s now-defunct Anti-Fraud Monitoring Centres.

“They have different names,” he said.

The government’s peacekeeping centres, which will be established in all 77 provinces, “will monitor fraud or any foul play as they [the UDD] wish. Anyone who wants to do that can join. Why do you have to set up your own to compete against the state?”

Authorities prevented the UDD last month from setting up so-called anti-fraud monitoring centres across the country.

On Sunday, the government announced the opening of the centres nationwide in preparation for the August 7 charter referendum.

Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the centres would seek information about activities that cause commotion, distort the charter draft’s content or violate the referendum law, as well as handle matters in line with the public assembly bill.

Prayut said national administration is a state duty, adding that responsible agents would be stationed near polling stations but not interfere in accordance with existing laws.

Every province will be watched equally to ensure that violence does not break out. Similar centres would be set up prior to the next election if there is any sign of impending violence, he added.

Critics have said the centres were redundant since existing government bodies should be able to maintain public order and monitor fraud.

However, authorities insisted the roles of the existing agencies and the peacekeeping centres did not overlap because the latter are under the Interior Ministry and focused specifically on issues related to the charter referendum.

National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Colonel Piyapong Klinphan meanwhile emphasised that the Interior Ministry would be in charge and coordinate with the Election Commission (EC) to facilitate the referendum process at the provincial and district levels.

Most centre officials would be staff from the Interior Ministry or volunteer police officers, the spokesman said, adding that the centres would be dissolved soon after the plebiscite.

Deputy Premier General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is a key NCPO figure and also defence minister, yesterday said the centres will be supervised by provincial governors to ensure their work will be fully integrated with other involved agencies, the EC and security services. “The government also wants to ensure peace and order,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party member Chaturon Chaisang expressed concern over possible bias, saying the centres could result in further restrictions of freedom of expression.

He said monitoring fraud was an EC task and the agency should fulfil the job in good faith. However, when the agency seems to take action only against opponents of the draft, authorities should instead try to be impartial, the former education minister said.

“The government should not interfere or do this job for the EC when it obviously supports the charter draft. These centres can never be neutral,” Chaturon said.

Thanawut Wichaidit, a spokesman for the red shirt movement, yesterday accused the government of double standards.

“We weren’t able to set up our monitoring centres so why should the military government be allowed to set up their centres?” he told Reuters. “The military government is blindfolding the electorate and leading their hands to vote in the manner they want.”

Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intrasombat said he was still on the fence yesterday. He did not know what information might have motivated the NCPO to establish the centres.

Activists disappointed as court finds clause constitutional

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



IN A UNANIMOUS 9-0 vote, the Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that the second paragraph of the referendum law’s Article 61 is not in conflict with the post-coup interim charter, and hence is constitutional.

This ruling, in effect, gives the green light for the August 7 referendum on the draft charter to go ahead uninterrupted.

The clause in question “is not in conflict with Article 4 of the 2014 provisional constitution and therefore there is no problem of constitutionality”, a statement from the court said. No further elaboration was provided.

The controversial clause prohibits the spread of false, rude, inciting or intimidating messages concerning the draft constitution or the referendum and violators face a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of Bt200,000.

Yesterday’s ruling came after the Ombudsman’s Office asked the court to look into the clause’s legality after it received a petition last month that the clause might violate the rights and freedom of expression that are protected by the supreme law.

After the court accepted the case, there were concerns that the referendum may be delayed, though the authorities insisted that it would not.

The Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), led by former senator Jon Ungpakorn, had filed a petition with the Ombudsman’s Office, alleging that the second clause of the Referendum Act’s Article 61 was unconstitutional and breached Article 4 of the interim charter.

Jon’s group issued a statement explaining that the petition had been lodged to ensure that the rights and freedom of speech of all Thai citizens are safeguarded.

However, Jon said yesterday that he was disappointed by the verdict, and maintained that the clause in question was clearly against the universal convention on citizens’ rights and liberties.

“We hope the referendum will be acceptable to the people and the international community, but this verdict may affect the referendum’s credibility,” he said.

He added that his group would call on the Election Commission (EC) to amend its regulations regarding the referendum in order to allow both supporters and detractors of the draft constitution to campaign freely.

iLaw stands firm

Meanwhile, an iLaw representative told The Nation yesterday that the group was standing firm in its stance that the clause is unconstitutional as it clearly violates the rights and freedom of expression.

However, he admitted that the group could do little to change the verdict, but it would continue promoting the rights and freedom of the people as much as it could through normal legal means.

In response to the court ruling, EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, said the commission would strictly enforce the law, adding that the editor Matichon Weekender and a cartoonist would be summoned today to explain their editorial cartoon. The illustration was deemed to have caused a misunderstanding about the referendum.

Separately, Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) spokesman Udom Rathamarit said yesterday that he was not worried that detractors of the draft charter would use the court verdict to criticise the draft.

Article 61 has stirred up considerable controversy since the Referendum Law came into effect late April. Some critics, like iLaw, have said that it violates the freedom of expression essential during the lead up to the referendum.

They said that people should be able to speak freely of the draft charter and the referendum, regardless of what stance they take. Otherwise, the poll would not be free and fair when only the junta-backed CDC and a handful of agencies are allowed to promote the charter and the plebiscite.

Some also say that the clause is an instrument for the regime to suppress its opponents who are likely to vote against this junta-sponsored constitution.

PM says he won’t step down if referendum rejects charter

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday ruled out stepping down as prime minister if the charter draft is voted down at the referendum.

Prayut said his situation could not be compared to David Cameron’s decision to quit as British prime minister following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

“It is a different issue. I am not quitting. I write my own rules. He did not come to power the way I did. His country does not have problems like our country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prayut warned politicians against expressing their opinions via Facebook Live, saying the act could violate the law.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship core leader Jatuporn Prompan yesterday broadcast on Facebook Live to express his opposition to the charter draft.

The move followed a broadcast by Suthep Thaugsuban, chairman of the Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand, who used Facebook Live to support the draft last week.

Prayut said he had dispatched staff to warn politicians and they had also issued warnings through the media.

In a related issue, he ordered his legal team to look into claims that former MPs, whom he refused to identify, had told their constituents that if they cooperate with the government on every issue they would be deprived of universal healthcare for 15 years.

‘Nothing to do with the draft’

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan agreed that Prayut does not need to step down if the charter draft was voted down.

“It is a different issue. The UK government handles the issue [about Brexit] but for us the Constitution Drafting Commission handles the draft. The government has nothing to do with the draft,” he said.

Responding to politicians talking about the draft on Facebook Live, Prawit said the Election Commission (EC) judged the broadcasts are okay if individuals talk about their stances without persuading anyone to vote either way.

He said if more than four people gathered to try and influence how people voted, action would be taken because that would violate the order on political gatherings issued by the National Council for Peace and Order.

“The EC will decide if it [a politician’s comment on the charter] is legal or not. If it is wrong, the security sector will take action without double standards,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said he had clarified with the EC that one person could say why they accepted or rejected the charter draft but a group of people was banned from doing so.

He said people could also say why they supported each article in the draft but they are not allowed to try and persuade people not to cast a ballot or to vote a certain way.

Wissanu said the prime minister would take recourse to Article 44 of the 2014 interim charter if there is fighting or chaos during the referendum.

He said authorities could use Article 44 to quell disturbances if the Constitutional Court ruled that clause 2 of Article 61 in the referendum law violated Article 4 of the interim charter, which guarantees people’s rights and liberties. The ruling is pending.

EC member Prawit Rattanapian said Suthep had the right to express his personal views about the charter draft if he does not make false or incendiary comments or distort the facts. He said a court would decide if someone broke the law.

EC explains controversial Article 61 to charter court

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Referendum boosters fine tune songs after critics allege discrimination.

THE ELECTION Commission (EC) yesterday sent a written explanation to the Constitutional Court about the referendum law’s controversial Article 61.

In the explanation, the agency argued that the clause does not contravene the 2014 interim charter, which protects rights and freedom of expression.

EC president Supachai Somcharoen and EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn will testify in court on behalf of the agency if required, an EC source said yesterday.

The EC also refused to reveal details of the letter, saying it could affect the legal process.

Yesterday’s move came after the Constitutional Court asked the EC to explain the controversial article last week.

Article 61 prohibits the spreading of “false”, “rude” or “intimidating” messages related to the referendum and any action that could influence the vote.

However, a group of scholars and activists filed a petition against the article, alleging that it violates the freedom of expression protected by the country’s interim supreme law.

Authorities have said that if the court finds the clause in breach of the interim charter, it will be nullified. However, the rest of the bill would remain in effect and the referendum date of August 7 would not be changed.

Chiang Mai venue changed

The EC yesterday also resolved that the venue for providing explanations on the referendum inChiang Mai would be changed from Kawila Military Camp to a national convention centre, as the new venue is able to house as many as 500 people.

Thanit Sriprathet, EC deputy secretary-general, said Kawila Camp’s hall only had the capacity for 200 people, hence the convention centre was more appropriate.

He denied that the change was prompted by critics saying that holding such an event in a military camp would generate an undemocratic and uncomfortable atmosphere.

Thanit also said that although international observers were welcome to the event, the EC did not have a policy of inviting people from overseas.

He said there were far too many organisations and countries, and the agency could not possibly send invitations to everyone.

Regarding claims that the song promoting the referendum discriminated against people from the North and Northeast, Thanit said the lyrics had been adjusted and publicised yesterday. He said the agency would gather public opinions on the song’s new version until Friday before finalising it.

Supachai said he did not think the initial lyrics were problematic, but the agency had agreed to make the revision because it did not want a trivial issue to stir up unnecessary conflicts.

The EC has also launched a new song to urge young voters to participate in the referendum. This song is sung by Suthita “Image” Chanachaisuwan and Thanon “Non” Chamroen, former contestants in the singing contest “The Voice”. It aims to encourage first-time voters and young voters to exercise their rights on August 7.

Anybody who is 18 or older on the day of the referendum, or was born before August 9, 1998, will be eligible to vote.

EC stands firm on referendum despite dispute

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Court set to rule on constitutionality of debated Article 61.

THE ELECTION Commission (EC) yesterday insisted that the Constitutional Court’s ruling about the legality of Article 61 of the Referendum Act would not defer the planned referendum, citing procedures addressed in the interim charter.

Meanwhile, the agency and legislators are also preparing explanations about the contested article as requested by the court.

Supachai Somcharoen, president of the EC, said the Constitutional Court’s acceptance of the Ombudsman Office’s petition concerning the legality of the second paragraph of Article 61 would not affect the agency’s work or prompt a postponement of the plebiscite.

The embattled article prohibits the propagation of “false”, “vulgar”, “inciting” or “intimidating” messages intended to influence the vote. A petition has been lodged claiming the article potentially contravenes Article 4 of the 2014 interim constitution, which protects freedom of expression.

The EC president said the planned referendum set for August 7 could only be put off if the Constitutional Court rules so despite the interim charter, which stipulates that a referendum must be held within 120 days after the constitution draft is completed.

However, he said, the EC will act according to the Constitutional Court ruling over the embattled Article 61.

After accepting the Ombudsmen’s petition on Wednesday, the court requested that the EC and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) submit explanations about the intention behind the contested paragraph.

Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, NLA president, said the assembly was preparing its explanation on the principle behind the stipulation in response to the Constitutional Court, reiterating that the referendum would not be affected despite the court’s review.

Meanwhile, the EC insisted that its controversial campaign song promoting the referendum does not discriminate against any particular region in the country.

The song has been criticised for lyrics that some believe insult people in the North and Northeast.

In related news, EC commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn posted on Facebook yesterday that a viral video clip of a song campaigning against the referendum is not punishable under the referendum law because it was posted before the law was enacted.

However, Somchai also warned the video still risks violating other laws such as the Computer Crime Act and relevant security laws, adding that related agencies are looking into the case.

People who share the video after the referendum law was implemented, and those who appear in the clip such as student activist Sirawith Seritiwat, lawyer Anont Numpa and anti-coup campaigner Sombat Boonngama-nong, could face criminal charges unless they report to police and deny that they had shared the clip, he added.