EC stands firm on referendum despite dispute

national June 10, 2016 01:00

By CHANIKARN PHUMHIRAN,
PRAPASRI

5,295 Viewed

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.

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