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Election body gets 173 complaints

Vote buying, gifts, parties and free tours among the list of reported violations

Published on August 20, 2007



Election body gets 173 complaints

Police arrested 78-year-old Chan Khammuang (seated) at a Wiset Chai Chan polling station in Angthong yesterday for tearing his referendum ballot in two after becoming confused by voting instructions.

The Election Commission received 173 complaints of violations in yesterday's referendum, secretary Suthipol Thaweechaikan said.

Meanwhile, the independent monitoring group People's Network for Elections in Thailand, or P-Net, reported vote buying and distribution of objects in several parts of the Northeast by those seeking rejection of the draft constitution.

The complaints received by the commission between August 10 and yesterday involved alleged vote buying, distribution of objects, free parties and tours, and illegal rallies.

Suthipol said after polls closed at 4pm that 70 complaints came from Bangkok and its surrounding provinces - the highest of all regions. That was followed by the Northeast, with 64 complaints, Central and the North with 17 complaints each, and five in the South.

The agency will investigate.

Suthipol added voters had been arrested for ballot destruction, which is against the law. These incidents took place in Ayutthaya, Roi Et, Angthong, Buri Ram, and Samut Prakan. Four alleged offenders said they misunderstood instructions and one admitted to doing so in protest.

The commission said any protest must be lodged within 24 hours, or by 4pm today. Complaints must be supported by at least 10 per cent of eligible voters registered at the polling station in which they occurred.

Meanwhile, P-Net secretary Varin Thiemjaras said yesterday vote buying and distribution of items, such as T-shirts and compact discs, was rife in the Northeast.

In Phitsanulok and Sakon Nakhon, some pro-government community radio stations broadcast appeals for voters to support the constitution draft, he said.

P-Net coordinator Boonma Pongma said yesterday there were fewer ballot papers than the number of eligible voters at more than 10 polling stations in Lat Phrao, Bang Kapi and Wang Thonglang districts.

Lat Phrao district chief Duangporn Wattakawanit said there were slightly fewer ballots than voters. She said it was rare for all eligible voters to participate. However, if that occurred, there were extra ballots available.

In a related development, the commission asked police to take action against a former Thai Rak Thai party member of Parliament for Buri Ram for allegedly handing out money and encouraging voters to vote no, a senior police officer said yesterday.

Former MP Sophon Saram was accused of giving Bt200 to voters in Buri Ram to vote against the charter, Colonel Jarungvit Pumma said. He is in charge of investigating vote buying.

The commission heard of the alleged vote buying during a recent visit to the province by its chief Suchart Sukakanond.

It asked police to investigate similar allegations in Kamphaeng Phet, Ratchaburi and Nakhon Phanom.

Meanwhile, police General Wichien Pojpoesri, the commission investigation chairman, said a police centre received 17 complaints over the referendum - 15 of which involved alleged distortion of charter content with the intention to mislead.

They are being treated as violations of election laws.

A suspect, Wiraj Insri, 38, was arrested in Kamphaeng Phet on August 12 after police found him distributing leaflets containing incorrect charter information. About 4,000 leaflets were confiscated. Wiraj said police Sergeant Apayan Keeta had hired him.

Wichien said Apayan had been transferred after admitting to producing the material. He was found in possession of tens of thousands of the leaflets.

In Na Pho district of Buri Ram, three people were arrested on suspicion of giving cash to voters and encouraging them to vote against the charter.


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