Even as unofficial results of the Election Commission showed that Thailand’s pro-army Palang Pracharat Party won the general elections — the first since a military coup in 2014 — controversy shrouded the counting of votes after nine people were arrested for spreading “fake news” on Facebook.
The Palang Pracharat Party garnered 8.4 million ballots while the Pheu Thai Party, whose elected government was toppled in the coup, got 7.9 million votes, Reuters quoted Krit Urwongse, deputy secretary-general of the Election Commission, as saying.
The nine people who were arrested had claimed on Facebook that two election commissioners had been sacked and 600,000 illegitimate ballots were mixed into the vote count. They face up to five years in jail and a $3,100 fine.
The people were charged under the draconian Computer Crimes Act “for sharing or passing false information”, AFP quoted Siriwat Deephor, a spokesman for the Computer Crime Suppression Division Police, as saying.
The Computer Crimes law gives broad powers to crack down on online content and to target regime critics. “They confessed and said they didn’t know that it was fake news,” he said.
However, amid mounting allegations over election irregularities by the Opposition, the Election Commission said it would stagger announcements of the official results, claiming “human error” in calculating ballots in some areas.
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, according to a charter passed by the junta, meaning non-aligned parties need a higher number of votes to control the government.