BANGKOK — Official guidelines of what is prohibited during the run-up to a referendum on the charter proposed as Thailand’s 20th constitution bars virtually all aspects of campaigning, such as persuading the public “to vote one way or another.”
The eight prohibitions issued by the Election Commission yesterday to clarify the scope of a separate law which outlaws any campaigning that uses “aggressive” or “rude” language – a vague definition that alarms many critics of the charter draft.
But the guidelines replaced the ambiguity by seemingly banning all campaigns in one swoop, particularly prohibition No. 8, which bars “campaigning to persuade people in the society to vote one way or another, to incite unrest, or to obstruct voting.”
Other bans include disseminating or displaying information that is “factually inaccurate, rude, aggressive, inciting or intimidating,” whether in media interviews, pamphlets, T-shirts, or even “badges and ribbons.”
Also banned are discussion forums not involving “legally registered” bureaucratic or media agencies.
Violation of these rules are punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich, an activist who has been campaigning publicly against the charter draft, called the guidelines “a restriction of people’s rights and liberty.”
“It doesn’t benefit democracy in any way at all,” said Anurak, who leads a “vote no” group called Red Path. “They restrict everything, even what we say on T-shirts, badges, flags, ribbons and signs.”
Because of the newly enacted referendum law, Anurak said his group is now suspending their campaign in order to “adjust” their activities accordingly.
Here’s a Khaosod English translation of the “Eight Don’ts” guideline published by the Election Commission:
1. Giving interviews to the media with remarks that are factually inaccurate, rude, aggressive, inciting or intimidating.
2. Spreading information that is factually inaccurate, rude, aggressive, inciting or intimidating on websites or electronic media, or forwarding such aforementioned information.
3. Making or sending symbols or signs that are factually inaccurate, rude, aggressive, inciting or intimidating.
4. Organizing forums and panel discussion by any organization without participation of a legally registered bureaucratic agency, educational institute or media organization, with intent to incite political unrest.
5. Selling, distributing, or inviting others to wear shirts, signs, badges, flags, ribbons or symbols that express any kind of opinion in a campaigning manner that leads to political inciting.
6. Using documents, leaflets or pamphlets that are factually inaccurate, rude, aggressive, or politically inciting.
7. Reporting news or hosting shows that leads to inciting or unrest in the society.
8. Campaigning to persuade people in the society to vote one way or another, to incite unrest, or to obstruct voting.