That plaque

19 07 2018

We won’t repeat the story of how the plaque commemorating the 1932 Revolution, people’s sovereignty and the end of the absolute monarchy disappeared.

No one has officially claimed responsibility for that act of political vandalism and the plaque being replaced by one extolling the wonders of royalism.

Interestingly, in a story at Prachatai, there’s an official clue as to the status of the thieves and vandals. (We must add that we are pleased that the English version of Prachatai has suddenly made a comeback after a hiatus over the past months or so.)

A second part of a report on a seminar that assessed the 1932 Revolution reports the presentation by former lese majeste prisoner and longtime activist Somyos Prueksakasemsuk:

Somyot stated that today he came [to the seminar] with a police car leading him. He considered it was a great honour for the police officers show respect to him by asking him for details and asking about certain matters that are inappropriate to be speaking about.

We would have guessed that the police wanted to silence him on lese majeste, the monarchy or his case. But no: “The issue they asked him to not talk about was the disappearance of the Khana Ratsadon plaque.

That suggests to us that the junta must have authorized the plaque’s removal or is officially covering-up for the real culprit. (Many assume that King Vajiralongkorn ordered its removal.)

Somyos went on to explain that:

… the disappearance of the plaque is nothing new because there have always been attempts to destroy the symbols of the 1932 revolution all the time, including the misrepresentation of the history of 1932 as premature where the revolution went ahead even though King Rama VII was getting ready to bestow democracy. The … date of the national day has been changed and Khana Ratsadon architecture such as the Supreme Court building, has been destroyed.

Ever a political optimist, Somyos explained:

As for the missing plaque, … its disappearance today is alright. When one day we have democracy, and a government, we can install a new one. At least it can be an ideological symbol of democracy and Khana Ratsadon.

We can only hope he’s right and support those who favor electoral democracy of military dictatorship.





Questioning elections and the corrupted charter

4 03 2018

In an important modulation of tune, some in the media are beginning to question what the call for a junta “election” means.

Prachatai has an editorial – not common for them – which reminds readers of the twin calls made by the activists calling themselves the Democracy Restoration Group:

… The DRG has proposed two main ideas — firstly, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must hold an election in 2018, and, secondly, it must cease its efforts to hang on to power after the election.

“When we have elections, when we have an [elected] cabinet, the NCPO has to step down by default; this is the first step of building our democracy,” DRG leader Anon Nampa said during a speech at the protest on 24 February at Thammasat University. “Second step, … all NCPO orders and announcements that limit our rights must be amended by a parliament that we elect. This is the importance of elections.”

It says the second step is being largely ignored in the media and by the broader public and advises: “Pro-democracy activists should remind the public more that the election will not lead the country to a brighter future if the military still retains power in Thai politics.”

In the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson writes of advance election rigging, using all the state’s means and resources and a dirty tricks campaign. All designed to keep The Dictator and his junta mates in power after the junta’s “election.”

These warnings need to be taken seriously. But more attention should also be given to the 2017 constitution and its long-term rigging of the political system for the benefit of the ruling classes and their cronies. It should not be forgotten that the “referendum” for the junta’s constitution was neither free nor fair and that the constitution results from a series of mutinous and illegal actions by the military dictatorship.

Part of the “fix” that the constitution puts in place is the near impossibility for any elected government to alter the junta’s basic law. Yet any “elected” government that is not the devil spawn of the junta must do away with this corrupted charter.





Getting headlines wrong

21 04 2017

Brief corrections to two stories in the media that mislead, both noted by PPT readers.

First, at Prachatai, there’s a report headlined “Junta blocks Youtube channel of exiled Thai journalist.” This is a story that reports the censorship of a YouTube channel run by exiled journalist Jom Petpradab called Jom Voice. He makes his program in the US and is critical of the regime. The story adds:

In 2014, after he was summoned by the junta, he fled Thailand to live in the US where he founded Thaivoicemedia.com, a web-based Thai media outlet in exile. The website is also blocked by the government.

Correction: As far as we are aware, the blocking of a YouTube channel is the work of YouTube, a Google subsidiary. The military dictatorship’s minions might have asked for the blocking but it is Google’s YouTube that does the blocking.

Google’s policy states:

Government requests to remove content
We regularly receive requests from courts and government agencies around the world to remove information from Google products. Sometimes we receive court orders that don’t compel Google to take any action. Instead, they are submitted by an individual as support for a removal request. We closely review these requests to determine if content should be removed because it violates a law or our product policies. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive in six-month periods.

The latest report we could find at Google is for the end of 2015 and then they counted nearly 5,000 government requests for censorship. No information was listed for Thailand. It states that: “From July to December 2015, the top three products for which governments requested removals were YouTube, Web Search, and Blogger.” It adds: “From July to December 2015, governments from around the world requested that we remove 6144 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 4242 items—3498 due to legal reasons, and 744 found to be violations of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”

Google has been named previously as working with the military dictatorship.

Second, at the Bangkok Post, there’s a headline “Future govts ‘won’t face curbs’.” It’s first paragraph states: “The government has given assurances that a bill supporting its 20-year national development blueprint will not restrict future elected governments from making changes to the plan as they see fit.”

The puppet National Legislative Assembly, without a single dissenting voice, voted “to accept the government’s bill setting out action plans for national reforms for deliberation…”.

But here is how junta minion Wissanu Krea-ngam is actually reported:

… Wissanu … told the meeting that the national strategy bill will set out action plans for long-term national development as stipulated by the new constitution.

Mr Wissanu allayed concerns that the 20-year national development strategy will cripple future elected governments’ ability to run the country.

The bill still allows future governments to adjust the 20-year plan to suit changing circumstances both at home and abroad, though any changes must be in line with the law and the constitution, he said….

…[H]e said, a range of measures will be in place to enforce compliance with national strategy, including warnings and coercive measures.

If state agencies fail to comply despite warnings, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will be asked to take action against the chiefs of those agencies, Mr Wissanu said.

This plan is deemed to take precedence over all others. It is binding on all agencies,” Mr Wissanu said.

Correction: Wissanu actually warned future “elected” governments that will most certainly be restricted from making any changes to the military junta’s plan for 20 years.





Tens, thousands, millions and billions

5 04 2017

How many extrajudicial killings have there been? No one seems to know precisely, although Prachatai has a story about some of them. One issue with the story is that the author repeats inaccurate figures on Thaksin Shinawatra’s War on Drugs, almost doubling the number killed in that grisly campaign. We would think the more accurate figure of about 1,300 was brutal enough and demonstrated the capacity of the police and military for extreme violence.

How many conscripts are slaves? With the recent attention to conscripts being treated to “strict discipline” involving inhumane beatings, torture and murder, and with the unusually wealthy Army boss doling out chump change of 100,000 baht to the family of the latest murdered conscript, the feudal system of conscription has come under scrutiny.

One interesting observation is at Prachatai, reporting a former Democrat Party MP, who states that “more than half of Thailand’s military conscripts end up as servants for high ranking military officers.” Compared with the men who die from “strict discipline,” these 40,000-80,000 guys are lucky. That said, they face the degradation of having to grovel before military thugs and their families. Anyone who lives near an officer knows that he or she will have 3 to 6 servants provided to them.

How much can they spend on military kit? Thinking about the commissions, there’s the 36 billion baht about to be forked out on Chinese submarines and then there’s the two billion baht spent on 10 extra VT-4 tanks from China to replace the decades-old M41 tanks from the USA. The earlier purchase of 24 tanks at about 5 billion baht. Expect more as the top brass cash in before an “election.”

How many read the BBC on the king? Readers will know that student activist Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa has been singled out for a lese majeste charge and rots in a junta cell awaiting his further framing. He was charged after sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, (some) warts and all. The BBC now says that its story “broke records as the site’s most popular story, accumulating millions of views despite the article’s eventual censorship.” It says it has “received over 3 million views and counting…”. Tell us again why the military dictatorship singled out Jatuphat? It can’t have much to do with this story! Watch a documentary on Jatuphat here.





A couple of corrections

26 03 2017

On a Sunday, as we read a few stories that continue to keep us glum about Thailand’s prospects for some political progress, as opposed to regression, we came across a couple of stories that appear to us to requires a little corrective attention.

The first is at Prachatai. Kornkritch Somjittranukit has a story on red shirt renegade Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee as public enemy no. 1 for the old guys running the military junta. A couple of things bothered us a bit. One was mention of the 2009 Pattaya events without noting the role played by the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban and his then new best friend Newin Chidchob who goaded and challenged red shirts with their own blue shirts, many of them being military and police in different clothes.

PDRC shooter

On the 2014 People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) seizure of the Lak Si District Office to prevent the 2 February election, mention is made of a “violent clash with Ko Tee and his supporters from Pathum Thani. The sound of gunfire came from both sides.” The latter is true but ignores something. After that event it was officially stated:

A police forensics director stated that his team’s investigation showed “39 shots have been fired from the position of PCAD protesters, and 3 shots from the direction of pro-election protesters.”

The second story is at the Bangkok Post. Editor Umesh Pandey briefly recounts the actions taken over the past few years as pro-Thaksin election winners were ditched, missing the important 2008 judicial coup. What bothered us was the headline, “Army needs to learn to be neutral.”

While the article doesn’t exactly amount that, the idea that the military could be neutral is baffling in the extreme. The military is now, after more than half a century of pro-monarchy and pro-elite military is firmly attached to the side of privilege, hierarchy, wealth and repression.





Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”





Deleting news and suppressing freedom of expression

26 12 2016

PPT has chased this story – deleted from Prachatai – for a few days. Finally, with our thanks and appreciation, a reader came up with it. This is the deleted story:

Court orders NGO to delete report criticising its judgement
Submitted by editor4 on Thu, 15/12/2016 – 18:15

A court has threatened to prosecute a lawyer for contempt of court after Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) published a report criticising the court’s decision to deny bail to an anti-junta activist.

On 14 December 2016, Phra Khanong Provincial Court ordered the TLHR to delete an online report about the court denying bail for Piyarat Chongthep, a pro-democracy activist prosecuted for tearing a referendum ballot on 7 August. The court threatened to prosecute Piyarat’s lawyer for contempt of court if the TLHR did not delete the report.

The TLHR then conceded to the court’s order before the court granted bail for Piyarat and his two friends on the same day with 200,00 baht as surety for each suspect.

The deleted report contains details of the trial and comments from TLHR staff criticising the court’s judgement to deny bail to the three suspects on 13 December. On that day, two university lecturers had used their academic positions to submit bail requests for the three. However, the court denied bail, reasoning that the lecturers are neither relatives of the three or their employers.

The TLHR report argues that official regulations do not state that bail guarantors have to be a relative or employer of suspects.

While bail was eventually granted, the situation is that reports of reports of bail being denied are now deleted. Courts, monarchy, military and regime are all on a list of bodies that cannot be criticized.





Updated: No torture reporting

28 09 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that the military junta has prevented “an Amnesty International seminar today on torture and other abusive practices in Thailand, arguing that the foreign speakers do not have work permits.” The event was to launch a report on torture in Thailand covering the last two years.

The Amnesty International team said: “The authorities do not want to cancel the event but they asked that the foreign panelists do not speak during the panel discussion…”. Yet all the panelists were foreign nationals.

The report is said to provide “details [on] 74 cases of alleged torture of detainees, in the far South and [of] political activists, at the hands of Thai soldiers and police.”

The junta continues to use Cold War methods to “protect” itself and its murderous police and military.

The Asian Human Rights Commission produced a “press release from Prachatai.”

————-

FORWARDED PRESS RELEASE
AHRC-FPR-032-2016

THAILAND: Thai authorities prevent press briefing on state-sponsored torture

Police and public officials have prevented a press briefing of Amnesty International (AI)’s about state-sponsored torture, saying that AI speakers might be charged for not having working permit.

On 28 September 2016, at Four Wings Hotel in Bangkok, Special Branch police officers and officials from the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare intervened at a press briefing of an AI report titled “Make Him Speak by Tomorrow”: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Thailand.

The report documents 74 cases of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of soldiers and the police, including beatings, suffocation by plastic bags, strangling by hand or rope, waterboarding, electric shocks of the genitals, and other forms of humiliation.

The Thai authorities said that they are not barring the press briefing, but the AI speakers from the UK might be arrested if the briefing continues because they do not have a work permit.

In the report, AI states that since seizing power in a 2014 coup, Thailand’s military authorities have allowed a culture of torture and other ill-treatment to flourish across the country, with soldiers and policemen targeting suspected insurgents, political opponents, and individuals from the most vulnerable sections of society.

“Thailand may claim to be tough on torture, but actions speak louder than words. Empowered by laws of their own making, Thailand’s military rulers have allowed a culture of torture to flourish, where there is no accountability for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

Update: AI have made the Executive Summary of their report available in Thai and English.

 





Judicial harassment of activists and reporter

1 09 2016

As part of the process of preparing for the military junta’s “election,” and probably for General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s drive to be unelected and continuing dictator of Thailand, the regime is continuing its crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners and a Prachatai journalist. For the “election,” there can be no democracy and no free media. We reproduce an updated posting from the Asian Human Rights Commission:

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-016-2016

1 September 2016

[RE: AHRC-UAC-089-2016: THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter]
—————————— —————————— ———
THAILAND: Ongoing judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and Prachatai reporter

ISSUES: Administration of justice; arbitrary arrest; freedom of expression; military
—————————— —————————— ———

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding four activists and one journalist, indicted over anti-draft constitution leaflets. The Public Prosecutor has asked the Court to revoke the defendants’ right to vote for ten years.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on documentation by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

On 29 August 2016, the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicted the five defendants, namely Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, and Mr. Anan Loket (all members of the New Democracy Movement), Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai (a Mae Jo University student), and Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha (a Prachatai reporter), in the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. They have been indicted for the offences related to the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), Section 61, and the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25, on the arrangement concerning criminal prosecution.

The indictment states that on 10 July 2016,

“the five defendants had dared to distribute some documents and blue stickers displaying messages of ‘7 August: Let’s Vote No to Reject the Undesirable Future’ which means to say that people should be voting to reject the Draft Constitution made by the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) in the Constitutional Referendum set on 7 August 2016. The distribution of the stickers displaying such messages to general public and their colleagues who were eligible voters was an attempt to transmit texts which are inconsistent with the truth or inciting aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction, and the act was committed with five persons or more, to disrupt the referendum which was an act against the law”.

In addition, the Public Prosecutor has further asked the Court to revoke the right to vote of the defendants for ten years, in accordance with Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act.

All of the defendants applied for bail during trial, which was granted by the Court, using the same sureties placed during the police investigation, for 140,000 baht (approx.4,000 $USD) each. The Court has scheduled a mediation hearing on 21 September 2016 and an arraignment on 17 October 2016.
__________________________

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately end any ongoing judicial harassment of the 4 activists and 1 reporter from Prachatai.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Ongoing judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and Prachatai reporter

Names of victims:

1. Mr. Pakorn Areekul
2. Mr. Anan Loket
3. Mr. AnuchaRungmorakot
4. Mr. ThaweesakKerdpokha
5. Mr. PanuwatSongsawatchai

Names of alleged perpetrators: Military Officers and Police Officers

Date of incident: 10 July 2016 to the present

Place of incident: Ratchaburi Province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicting the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists and a reporter on the offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), as a result of the documents recouped from their vehicle. The judicial action has been taken despite the activists not having distributed any material, much to the puzzlement of the suspects.

On 29 August 2016, the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicted the five defendants, namely Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, and Mr. Anan Loket (all members of the New Democracy Movement), Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai (a Mae Jo University student), and Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha (a Prachatai reporter), in the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. They have been indicted for the offences related to the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), Section 61, and the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25, on the arrangement concerning criminal prosecution.

Under Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), they face imprisonment not exceeding ten years and fine not exceeding 200,000 Baht. And, under the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM), no. 25, they also face imprisonment not exceeding 6 months and/or fine not exceeding 1,000 Baht, for disobeying the order of the officials by refusing to give their fingerprints. In addition, the Public Prosecutor has further asked the Court to revoke the right to vote of the defendants for ten years, in accordance with Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016).

I also wish to point out that the deprivation of liberty, arbitrary arrest, and judicial harassment, arises in this case wherein the five defendants attempted to exercise their right to freedoms of expression and opinion. It means that the government has failed to recognize the rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the ICCPR, ratified by Thailand in 1996.

Therefore, I would like to urge the Thai Government and authorities, including the Attorney General Office, the Judge Advocate General, and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to end all acts of judicial harassment against the five victims.

Yours Sincerely,

—————-

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND
Tel: +662 283-4194
Fax: +662 288-4235
Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +662 2053 406
Fax: +662 2514 739

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662 142 1444
Fax: +662 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

5. Mr. Phattarasak Vannasaeng
Secretary -General of Office of the Judiciary
Criminal Court Building, 12 Floor Ratchadaphisek Road
Chatuchak
Bangkok 10900
THAILAND
Tel:+662 5412307
Fax: 662 5412306
E-mail: phattarasak.v@coj.go.th

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Visit our website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.

You can make a difference. Please support our work and make a donation here.

—————————–

Asian Human Rights Commission

G/F, 52 Princess Margaret Road

Ho Man Tin, Kowloon

Hongkong S.A.R.

Tel: +(852) 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) 2698-6367

Web: http://www.humanrights.asia





End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

18 07 2016

This is a post of an Asian Human Rights Commission appeal. It refers to the now well-known detention of students and a Prachatai reporter. We reproduce the appeal in full, not least because it includes significant detail on the case. The original is here.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-089-2016

18 July 2016

———————————————————————
THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

ISSUES: Administration of justice; arbitrary arrest; freedom of expression; military
———————————————————————

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding the arrest of activists who attempted to exercise their right of expression. On 10 July 2016, the Ban Pong police searched the vehicle of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists, and found campaign material about the Constitutional Referendum and “Vote No” fliers. They were then held in custody for questioning, together with a reporter from Prachatai. No charges were initially pressed against them, but afterwards the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 instructed the officer to charge them with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 for preparing to distribute the fliers.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 10 July 2016 at around 11:30 a.m., police officials from the Ban Pong Police Station, Ratchaburi, searched the vehicle of Mr. Pakorn Areekul, aka “Man”, an activist of the New Democracy Movement (NDM). Mr. Pakorn had gone to Ban Pong District earlier to give moral support to some residents who had been summoned to acknowledge their charges. The local people there have been charged as a result of opening a referendum monitoring center. In the back of the activist’ pickup truck, the officials have found documents featuring reasons against the Draft Constitution, ‘Vote No’ stickers, and fliers made by the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT). Mr. Pakorn, along Mr. Anan Loket and Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, his fellow NDM activists as well as Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha, a reporter from Prachatai, were about to board the vehicle when they were summoned for questioning. Mr.Thaweesak was interrogated, despite showing his press ID card.

Initially, the officials did not press any charges against, simply informing them that they had to put the information into the daily record and had to seize the documents. But later, at around 12:00 p.m., the police informed them that they had just sent the information to the Provincial Election Commission and local military authorities for review. During the initial questioning, Mr. Thaweesak revealed that the officials tried to establish that Prachatai online news has been the funder behind the NDM, including giving the activists money to print the material to campaign against the Draft Constitution.

Then, the Deputy Superintendent of Ban Pong Police Station had made the phone call to the Election Commissioner on electoral affairs, Mr. Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, who informed the police that if the documents were simply in the possession and not yet distributed, the activists could not be held accountable. But if they had distributed them, whether it would violate the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558 or not, this would be subject to the discretion of the police on a case by case basis. Nevertheless, according to the police, the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 insisted that the act could be actionable as the activists were getting prepared to distribute the material and hence decided to press charges relating to the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61, paragraph two against them. Mr. Somchai also added that the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) was still reviewing the referendum campaign material of the NDM, but insofar could not determine if by simply having them in possession would constitute an offence or not.

In the Arrest Memo, the police noted that around 11:00 a.m the arresting police have received a report from people who acted in good faith and via the police scanner of the Ban Pong Police Station that a group of individuals were driving a pickup truck carrying with them documents and gears in the back of the truck. From their behavior, it was believed they were there to distribute the documents, the fliers, and brochures to campaign against the vote to endorse the Draft Constitution in Ban Pong District. From further investigation, it was found that the vehicle had pulled over on Songphon Road, Ban Pong Municipality, Tambon Ban Pong, Ratchaburi. The officials have thus identified themselves and asked to search the vehicle.

From the search, the evidence no. 2-14 were recovered, and from asking Mr. Pakorn Areekul, they have learned that he had travelled there with Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha, Mr. Anan Loket and Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot in order to visit their friends who have been summoned in the case of the unlawful assembly of five persons and upward or a political gathering without permission and to run the campaign about the Draft Constitution. Regarding the evidence no. 2-14, Mr. Pakorn accepted that they belonged to the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and they had been loaded into his vehicle.

The officials have thus seized the evidence and informed the arrestees of the charge against them for “having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum”, which is an offence of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two.

The 14 items of evidence seized by the officials include the pickup truck, Vinyl banner reading “Any Thai Prime Minister is subject to mocking” (one copy), a loudspeaker and microphones, ‘Vote No’ bookmarks, document ‘Seven reasons why the Draft Constitution should be rejected’. brochure “How to cast your votes”, document “A dissenting opinion”, document ‘Release the Seven Referendum Prisoners’, public statement of the Nitirat Group on the Referendum, document “How to apply to vote outside your constituency” and ‘Vote No’ stickers.

The four suspects pleaded not guilty to the charge and refused to sign their names in the Arrest Memo. Later at 16.00, the police also searched in the passenger cabin and seized five more items on top of the documents already seized including a NDM donation box made of paper with 2,571 baht inside and a booklet “In the name of the NCPO’s (in)justice” by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Around 18:00 p.m., the police have brought the four suspects to a holding cell at the Ban Pong Police Station and denied them bail at the police level. They were informed that the interrogation shall take place that night and they would be brought to the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi for a remand hearing on 11 July 2016 which TLHR attorneys filed a motion objecting the remand then.

Of late at 20.20 p.m., it was reported that four vehicles of police officials have laid siege to the residence of Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai, student of Faculty of Political Science, Maejo University Phrae Campus – Maejo University, another suspect in the same case who was summoned to turn himself in at the Ban Pong Police Station as a result of his activity at the referendum monitoring center in the morning. He was pressed with the same charge as the four individuals.

On 11 July 2016 at 9:00 a.m., all five were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. The police investigator of Ban Pong Police Station asked the Court to have them remanded for 12 days and the Court approved as submitted by police. However, six alleged offenders have been released by the order of the Court, by placing bail bond at 140,000 Baht (around 3,975 $) each.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Previously, on 23 June 2016, other NDM activists and union activists, 13 of them, were arrested while distributing campaign material in the public to urge them to vote during the Constitutional Referendum in Samut Prakan province. They were pressed with charges relating to the violation of the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558 and the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 (please see Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-075-2016 for more information). In addition, seven other student activists from the Kasetsat Liberals were apprehended while organizing a ceremony to mark the anniversary of Thailand’s democracy “24 June: Dusting off Democracy” at the Lak Si Monument on 24 June and their ‘Vote No’ campaign material of their car were also seized. The seven activists were pressed with charges relating to the political gathering of five persons and upward, the violation of the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558, though they were not charged for violating the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately withdraw the case and end any ongoing investigation into the 4 activists and 1 reporter from Prachatai.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

Name of victim: 1. Mr. Pakorn Areekul 2. Mr. Anan Loket 3.Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot 4.Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha 5. Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai

Names of alleged perpetrators: Military Officers and Police Officers

Date of incident: 10 July 2016 to the present

Place of incident: Ratchaburi province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the arrest of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists and a reporter on the offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act as a result of the documents recouped from their vehicle, even though they were not yet distributed, emerged in the wake of puzzlement by the suspects in the case.

While the international community has frequently described freedom of expression as one of the essential foundations of a democratic society because it guarantees the right of every person to exchange information, debate ideas and express opinions, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph and its implementation have shown contradictory results. Because it intends to restrict people’s right who need to discuss – and to criticise – decisions about their country.

Moreover, generally Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits the state from interfering with freedom of expression. This would prevent, for example, the government attempting to ban particular forms of political or artistic expression. The prohibition is not limited to the government but also includes all public bodies such as local authorities, schools and universities which Thailand, as a State party, should respect it.

Therefore, I would like to urge:

1. The Commander of Royal Thai Police to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the 4 activists and 1 reporter who were trying to campaign and report around the referendum on the draft constitution;
2. The Commissioner-General of Royal Thai Police and the Attorney General of Office of Attorney General to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the 4 activists and 1 reporter and unconditionally drop all charges against them;
3. The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission to urge The Royal Thai Police and The National for Peace and Order (NCPO) to take prompt action to protect the 4 activists and 1 reporter who were trying to campaign and report around the referendum on the draft constitution;
4. The NCPO to cease obstructing, threatening, and arresting those who campaign around the referendum and express differing views about the draft constitution in an orderly, peaceful and open manner, and allow the free presentation of views to accept or reject the draft constitution through various channels.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND
Tel: +662 283-4000
Fax: +662 282-5131
Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +662 2516 831
Fax: +662 2053 738

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662 142 1444
Fax: +662 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th