Isaan anti-junta activists arrested ahead of draft charter referendum

One day before the referendum on the junta-sponsored draft charter, the Thai authorities arrested two anti-junta activists in Isaan, northeastern Thailand, for distributing anti-constitution flyers.

About 10 police officers, soldiers and government officials at around 4:40 pm on Saturday, 6 August 2016, arrested Chaturapat Boonyapatraksa and Wasin Prommanee, youth activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM), while the two were distributing NDM anti-constitution flyers in a market in Phu Khiao District of the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

The authorities confiscated a copy of the draft constitution summary, 128 NDM anti-constitution flyers and 16 copies of the anti-constitution statements of the Nitirat Group before taking them to Phu Khiao District Police Station.

At the same time, many police officers in plainclothes with a search warrant visited Chaturapat’s home in the province and searched the house for more anti constitution documents.

After interrogating the two, the police accused them of breaking Article 61 of the controversial Public Referendum Act. The activists denied the accusation.

TLHR reported that the two need about 150,000 baht each for requesting bail. They are currently detained at Phu Khiao District Police Station.

Under the controversial Article 61 of the Referendum Act, anyone who publishes or distributes content about the draft constitution which deviates from the facts, contains rude and violent language, or threateningly discourages voters from participating in the referendum, could face up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years.  

Earlier this week, staff of Khon Kaen University and local Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) officials filed a complaint to the police against Chaturapat and other NDM members.

The University and ECT officials accused the activists of trespassing into a public building without permission to hold a public discussion called ‘Talk for Freedom’ on the draft constitution, and violations of the Public Referendum Act.

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The father of Chaturapat visits the two activists while they are detained at Phu Khiao Police Station in Chaiyaphum Province on 6 August 2016 (Photo from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

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