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

Jun 27. 2016
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By 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.

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