The military dictatorship’s repression is increasing over its intention to hold a referendum for its draft charter.
For a while, the junta pretended that its repression was of those engaging in “rude” or deceptive” campaigning on the charter. The Dictator even lied to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One report states that on 22 June, “Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), … with another two members of the movement, handed out ‘vote no’ flyers to local people in Samrong District of Bangkok.”
Police and military thugs “approached them and asked them to stop, citing the Referendum Bill, but the activists refused the request, reasoning that the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has never said that such activity is prohibited. The authorities then allowed the activists to distribute flyers for only 30 minutes.”
A second report states that three days later, that police and military thugs arrested the activists when they attempted to hand out more Vote No flyers in a factory area.
Rangsiman Rome “was arrested while handing out flyers calling for a no vote in the August draft charter referendum, to workers at Bangplee Industrial Estate, Samut Prakan Province.” Some 9-10 others were also taken into custody.
Unionist and activist Jitra Kotchadej witnessed the arrests and “told Prachatai that while the activist and his friends were distributing the flyers, soldiers from the Royal Thai Marine Corps approached them and asked them to stop by 5.30 pm. The activists then asked the authorities to let them continue the activity until 6.00 pm as the workers in the estate would finish work by that time.”
The soldiers, some in uniform and others in plainclothes, then “carried Rangsiman away, put him in a car, and then drove off.” Prachatai has a video of the illegal abduction of Rangsiman.
A third report states that 13 were “arrested” by the junta’s thugs. They are described as “pro-democracy activists from the New Democracy Movement and the Try Arm workers union…”.
As usual, the regime is busy concocting charges against them. And, as usual, the charges seem to be that the activists have “violat[ed] the junta’s ban on political gatherings for distributing campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum.”
In other words, there can only be Vote Yes campaigns around the charter, all of them organized and mostly populated by the military.
The Dictator’s claim that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…” means those people who support the junta and a a Yes vote.
The 13 activists held are: Rangsiman Rome, Korakoch Saengyenpan, Worawut Butmat, Konchanok Tanakhun, Tueanjai Waengkham, Pimai Ratwongsa, Somsakol Thongsuksai, Anan Loket, Phanthip Saengathit, Thirayut Napnaram, Yuttana Dasri, Rackchart Wong-arthichart and Nantapong Panmat.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the 13 “refused to sign their names on the police reports.” Police then “refused to grant bail to some of the pro-democracy activists and filed an additional charge against the 13 activists for refusing to sign the police report.”
A fourth report states that the activists could face up to 10 years in jail as a military court allowed (what a surprise!) the thug police and military gang to continue to detain the activists, accused of “violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons” and of “refusing to cooperate with officers and for violating the controversial Draft Referendum Act which lays out 10 years imprisonment for persons who distributed content about the draft constitution…”.
Following these events, UN Human Rights – Asia released a statement. In part it reads:
We are concerned by the arrests of 13 activists in Thailand who were detained for defying a military order banning political gatherings of five or more people. Eight of those arrested on June 23 in Bang Plee Industrial Area in Samut Prakarn Province, south of Bangkok, were students affiliated with the New Democracy Movement (NDM). The three others were labour rights activists. At the time of their arrest, they were distributing leaflets related to the upcoming referendum on the draft Constitution. Eight of the activists are due to face a military court, while the five others have been released on bail.
The junta will ignore these and other human rights statements not just because it rejects the notion that its opponents have rights but because the junta is intent on having its illegitimate charter “pass” an illegitimate referendum.
Update: Khaosod reports that six of the arrested 13 have been released on 50,000 baht bonds. The other seven have been “ordered to be locked up … by a military tribunal [court] as they await their trial.” These seven “refused to pay bonds … demanding to be released without any conditions, arguing that they did nothing wrong and that the legal action against them is illegitimate.” They are right.