This morning (30 April 2019), Ms.Payao Akkhahad aka ‘Mae Nong Ked’, Mr. Parit Chiwarak, aka ‘Penguin’, and Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat, aka ‘Ja New’ went on foot to Phayathai Police Station to answer to the charges pressed against them by Mr. Pinit Chanchai, a member of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) who has accused them of committing defamation. This allegation stemmed from the public speeches they made during the campaign to have the ECT members impeached with the hashtag #เห็นหัวกูบ้าง (‘spare us the sympathy’) on 31 March 2019 at the BTS’s Victory Monument’s Skywalk in Bangkok.
While walking from Wat Pathumwanaram to the Phayathai Police Station, dozens of people joined them to give them moral support. They were followed by uniform and plainclothes police officials.
Upon their arrival at the Phayathai Police Station at 10.20 am, they met the inquiry officials to answer to the charges. They are accused of defaming the ECT as a result of the public speeches they made as described in the charge sheet;
Mr. Sirawit, alleged offender No.1, read out a statement which essentially urges the ECT to unveil the results of all poll stations and opposes the manipulation of vote counts to favour the Palang Pracharat Party and the NCPO. They also claim that despite 5.8 billion baht being spent on the elections, the performance of duties concerning the organization of the elections appears to show a lack of transparency and flaws. The charge sheet quotes Mr. Sirawit as saying that ‘We fervently hope that the ECT realize how public trust and faith in its organization has eroded. They should try their best to correct their behavior, to right the wrong and should avoid repeating the mistakes. Otherwise, the ECT has to be held accountable as one of those who conspire to rig the elections.’
The charge sheet also quotes Ms. Payao as saying that “Who is here to join the campaign against the rigging of the elections by the Election Commission of Thailand?”
As to Mr. Parit, the charge sheet quotes him as saying, ‘Why did the ECT allow the rigging of elections to happen?’, ‘The ECT are referees, but they just do the rigging themselves.’, ‘ECT stands for “Rigging the Elections’’, “Why did the ECT not investigate the unlawful acts committed by political parties? Why did they just spend time rigging the elections?’, ‘The ECT are supposed to organize elections, but why did they themselves engage in electoral fraud?’, ‘The ECT are not realty Election Commissioners, they are simply Election Riggers’, ‘The referees just do the cheating by themselves’.
The three of them deny all charges and promise to file their written statements within 30 days.
The three of them are not held in custody as they have voluntarily come to answer to the charges as summoned. The next meeting between them and the inquiry officials will take place on 4 June 2019 at 10.00 am.
In the past month, while the official results of the elections are yet to be announced and while it has been reported that the ECT are still unsure about which formula they will use for calculating the MPs, it has been reported that the ECT has taken 20 individuals to court in at least four cases (including the case against the three individuals today) including;
The case stemming from the sharing of the link to the online petition campaign to impeach the ECT on change.org by Facebook users. As the campaign has garnered over 800,000 signatories, the ECT has reported the case against seven individuals accusing them of libel. Three of them were held in custody. They answered to the charges and sat at a press conference held at the Thung Song Hong Police Station. Even though, the authorities had only issued summonses, not arrest warrants.
Pol Capt Nitiphumthanat Ming-rujiralai (Nitipoom Nawarat), a candidate for party-list MP of the Prachachat Party also faces charges stemming from his posting on his personal Facebook account under the name “Nitiphumthanat Ming-rujiralai” and Twitter “Nitipoom Navaratna” allegedly claiming that “The ECT is about to give red cards to 45 potential constituent MPs including 28 from the Pheu Thai Party, 15 from the Future Forward Party, and two from the Palang Pracharat Party and the by-elections will tentatively be held on 21 April 2019. This would leave the Palang Pracharat Party with the highest number of constituent MPs at 115 while Pheu Thai Party is left with 111.” The Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD)’s inquiry officials have pressed him with charges for violating Section 14 (2) of the Computer Crimes Act BE 2560. Pol Capt Nitiphumthanat has, however, denied the charges claiming in a post on his Facebook page that he has never used Twitter.
In another case, nine individuals are held accountable for violating Section 14(5) of the Computer Crimes Act for sharing news from syoutaogou.com. According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), one of them also faces a libel suit.