Military orders ban on seminar on draft charter

The Thai military has prohibited a seminar on the controversial draft constitution in the northern province of Chiang Mai as the public referendum on the draft is drawing near.   

Matichon Online reported on Saturday, 2 April 2016, that Sunai Phasuk, a coordinator of Human Rights Watch (HRW), tweeted on his Twitter account that military officers from Kawila Military Camp in Chiang Mai ordered the cancellation of a seminar on ‘Reading the Constitution as Literature and Art’.

The seminar on the complete draft constitution was initially planned on 3 April at the Book Re:public bookshop in Chiang Mai.

The speakers at the discussion were Pitch Pongsawat, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, Pandit Chanrochanakit, a political scientist from Ramkhamhaeng University and Thasnai Sethaseree, a lecturer in media and arts at Chiang Mai University.

According to the Facebook page of Book Re:public, military officers contacted bookshop staff and told them that the seminar could not be held.

The public referendum on the draft constitution written by the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) is scheduled on 7 August 2016.

Recently, the authorities passed a referendum bill which gives the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) the authority to regulate all campaigns, both supporting and opposing the draft constitution.

The bill sets a heavy sentence for anyone who tries to oppose the referendum.

Article 62 of the bill states “anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, will be considered as a person creating confusion so that the vote will not proceed properly.” The penalty is a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 200,000 baht.

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