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Academics say that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the formal name of the Thai junta, has violated its own rule book in harassing critics of the junta-sponsored draft constitution.

Academics of the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) of Mahidol University on Wednesday, 27 April 2016, held a briefing on the authorities’ actions in persecuting and intimidating people for criticizing the draft constitution written by the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

The academics pointed out that the NCPO’s measures to arrest and harass critics of the draft constitution are in fact violations of Article 4 of the Interim Charter, which was imposed by the NCPO themselves in the aftermath of the 2014 coup d’état. Article 4 stipulates that Thai citizens are entitled to enjoy human rights as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

They further said that Article 7 of the Draft Referendum Act allows people to criticise the draft constitution peacefully. Article 7 states “individuals shall have rights and liberty to express their opinions in public about the referendum [on the draft constitution] without violating the law.”

The IHRP urged the authorities not to use Article 61 of the Draft Referendum Act as a tool to prosecute critics of the draft.  Article 61 imposes a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years on anyone who publishes or distributes content about the draft constitution which deviates from the facts.

On Wednesday, Jiraphan Tanmani, President of the Rathawatanamani Fund -- an organization raising funds to promote autism rights -- was arrested for publishing content that was alleged to be severe, aggressive and rude with the intention of persuading the public to accept or not accept the draft charter in the August referendum.

She was arrested under Article 61 of the Referendum Act only eight hours after Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, Election Commissioner of Thailand, filed the complaint on the case.

Earlier this week, the police officers confiscated flyers opposing the draft constitution from Bencharat Sae-Chua, a political scientist teaching at Mahidol University, at a forum on the double questions on the draft constitution at Chulalongkorn University.

They also attempted to take her for interrogation at a police station, but backed down as many people at the forum gathered to observe the exchange between them.

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