Bloomberg News

Thais Face Prison for Twitter, Facebook Campaigning Before Vote

June 30, 2011

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Thai candidates and their supporters face jail time if caught campaigning on social media websites Twitter or Facebook on the evening before the July 3 election, police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said.

Thai law forbids campaigning after 6 p.m. on the night before the vote until midnight the next day, with offenders facing a 10,000 baht ($326) fine and six months in prison. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck Shinawatra, who heads the main opposition Pheu Thai party, both plan to hold final campaign rallies tomorrow night.

“We have to monitor what the candidates say and do,” Prawut said by phone, adding they could be disqualified if violating the law. About 100 police officers are ready to monitor about 1,000 websites, he said. Alcohol sales will also be banned nationwide in that time.

Abhisit’s Democrat party, seeking its first election win since 1992, is trailing Pheu Thai in opinion surveys. A win for Yingluck’s party would be the fifth straight in elections dating back to 2001 for allies of her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Polls open at 8 a.m. on July 3 and close at 3 p.m. The Election Commission plans to announce unofficial results after 8 p.m., according to spokesman Paiboon Lekprom.

The commission can punish candidates found guilty of cheating with either a “yellow card,” making them stand in a re-run by-election, or a “red card” that disqualifies them for one year, he said. About 70 percent of Thailand’s 67 million people are eligible to vote.

A poll released June 19 by the Bangkok-based Suan Dusit Rajabhat University showed Pheu Thai with 52 percent of the vote and the Democrats with 34 percent. Of the 500 parliamentary seats up for grabs, 375 are chosen in districts and 125 through proportional representation.

--Editors: Paul Tighe, Patrick Harrington

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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