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in-focus

Suthep cautioned over FB broadcast


Opponents of charter draft say they should get equal opportunity.

SUTHEP THAUGSUBAN, a politician-turned-political activist, was yesterday cautioned against voicing support for the draft constitution through social media although the Election Commission chief said doing so was not against the law.
The Constitution Drafting Commission spokesman, Udom Rathamarit, said that Suthep should be careful when making comments in support of the draft and he should avoid violating the Referendum Act on the draft constitution.
“The CDC has not asked Suthep to speak in support of the draft constitution,” he said.
Udom said that regardless of their political leanings, any individual has the right to speak in support of or speak against the draft charter as long as they did not spread untruths or distorted the facts about the draft.
The National Council for Peace and Order is looking into Suthep’s comments on the draft charter to determine whether he had violated the referendum law, which would involve provoking violence or inciting unrest, a NCPO source said.
The source maintained that the NCPO was treating all parties equally with no bias in regard to the charter. That included anti-draft groups such as the Pheu Thai Party and the red shirts’ United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.
Suthep, leader of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee, said in his live Facebook broadcast yesterday afternoon that he would vote “Yes” in the August 7 referendum.
In his nine-minute speech, he said that for those who did not have the time to read the entire constitutional draft, they should just read its preamble to know its intention.
He said the preamble mentioned the country’s political instability, which was caused by abuse of power, corruption and the irresponsible use of certain politicians’ mandate.
 
Give both sides a say: Yingluck
Suthep said that he liked the draft because it clearly mentioned the state’s duties towards the people and the people’s duties towards the state. 
“Also, it states that an important goal is to prevent bad people without virtue and morality from gaining political power,” he said. 
He added that the draft also set guidelines for reform in different areas that had been suggested by the people, particularly in education, law enforcement, and morality.
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, commenting on Suthep’s daily Facebook broadcasts, said the authorities had to stay neutral and enforce the rules fairly. 
She urged the authorities to allow the opposite side to voice its views on the draft.
Yingluck’s government experienced several months of street protests led by Suthep, before a military coup in May 2014.
EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said that Suthep would not have violated the referendum law unless he lied or distorted the draft constitution or spoke provocatively.
However, he added that any public member who was convinced that Suthep had violated the law by commenting through social media could file a police complaint against him.
In a related development, armed forces Supreme Commander General Sommai Kaotira said banners would be hung at different military units calling on voters to cast their ballots on the referendum day. He said the Armed Forces fully supported the referendum but would not attempt to influence the result.
The banners contain the message “If you love democracy, you must vote in the referendum on August 7”.
Meanwhile, seven university students were arrested yesterday for illegal assembly after they were found distributing leaflets against the coup in Bangkok’s Bang Khen area.
They consisted of four men and three women aged between 19 and 23. They are from Kasetsart and Ramkhamhaeng universities.
On Thursday, 13 members of another student activist group, the New Democracy Movement, were arrested in Samut Prakan province for illegal assembly after they campaigned for people to vote against the draft charter.

Published : June 24, 2016

By : THE NATION