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Nine Thai Netizen Arrested for “Sharing” Fake Election News on Facebook

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BANGKOK – Nine Netizen’s have been arrested in Thailand for spreading “fake news” via Facebook with posts about sacked election officials and bogus ballots in the wake of controversial polls in the kingdom.

Thailand Military Junta held its election since a 2014 coup on Sunday (Mar 24), with a military-backed party and its main rival linked to Thaksin Shinawatra both claiming the right to govern.

Full official results have not yet been released but questions are mounting over election irregularities that may have skewed initial numbers.

A Thai official said Thursday that nine people were arrested for sharing fake news on Facebook claiming two election commissioners had been sacked and that 600,000 illegitimate ballots were mixed into the vote count.

They were charged under the draconian Computer Crimes Act “for sharing or on passing false information”, said Siriwat Deephor, a spokesman for the Computer Crime Suppression Division Police.

“They confessed and said they didn’t know that it was fake news” the accused face up to five years in jail and a US$3,100 fine.

The suspects were brought to yesterday’s news conference wearing facemasks. Police did not name any of them. One of the suspects, a woman, tearfully told reporters she shared the news without knowing it was fake.

“I only knew it was hoax news when police arrested me at my home,” the unnamed woman said, according to a report on the state-owned Thai News Agency.

The Election Commission has said it would stagger announcements of the official results in the coming weeks, claiming “human error” in calculating ballots in some areas.

Preliminary figures show the military-aligned Phalang Pracharat party leading in the popular vote with nearly eight million ballots.

But its main rival Pheu Thai – the party linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra – has formed a seven-member coalition and claimed a majority of seats in the lower house.

In order to appoint a prime minister, the winning party must clinch more than half of the 750 seats in the combined lower and upper houses.

But all 250 seats in the upper house are military-appointed thanks to a charter passed by the military government, meaning non-aligned parties need an avalanche of votes to control the government.

The Election Commission is expected to release more results on Friday which could clarify the outcome of the vote.

Rights groups say the Computer Crimes law provides broad powers to crack down on online content and to target regime critics.

The head of the millennial-friendly Future Forward Party, poised to become Thailand’s third largest faction, was accused of violating the act after a Facebook live broadcast criticized the military government last year.

A decision on whether to indict him and two other party members has been delayed until April.

Source: Khaosod News