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July 26, 2007

Thailand gears up for August 19 constitutional referendum
Thailand's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on July 25 overwhelmingly endorsed legislation to hold a public referendum on the country's newly-drafted constitution on August 19, another firm step on the country's return to participatory government.

After a 20-minute debate, the NLA voted 133 to 2 to approve the legislation in which varied penalties are handed out to electoral riggers.

For instance, those who violate the public referendum law by publicising the outcome of a public opinion poll three days or less prior to the date of the referendum, will be subject to a maximum  three-month jail term, or a maximum Bt 6,000 fine, or both.

The NLA action reduced the degree of the penalty for such publicity of poll results from a maximum of a three-year jail term and a maximum of a Bt 60,000 fine.

Meanwhile, those who are not eligible to cast a vote in the referendum -- Thailand's first -- but manage to do so illegally, will be subject to a maximum of five years in jail, or a maximum Bt100,000 fine, or both, under the new referendum law.

Those who deliberately damage or destroy a voting ballot will be subject to a maximum one-year jail sentence, a maximum Bt 20,000 fine, or both.

Those who obstruct the polling process in any manner will be subject to a maximum five years in jail, or a maximum Bt 100,000 fine, or both. TNA

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