Northern red shirts called to army barracks over referendum watch campaign

The military have summoned key leaders of the anti-establishment red shirt group in northern Thailand to a military base over a draft constitution referendum watch campaign.

Siriwat Jupamattha, a key red shirt leader in the northern province of Phayao, told the media that soldiers from the 34th Military Circle on Tuesday, 14 June 2016, summoned him and another red shirt leader for a discussion, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

The soldiers informed the red shirts that they wanted to discuss their group’s plan to open a charter referendum watch centre since Siriwat on 12 June attended a meeting in Uttaradit Province with other members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main red shirt faction affiliated with Thaksin Shinawatra.

The meeting was held to prepare a referendum watch centre in the region together with other UDD groups countrywide on 19 June 2016.

During the one hour discussion at the military base, Col Thinachat Sutthirak told the two red shirts that they are prohibited from opening such centre, reasoning that it might cause political instability.

The military officer claimed that it is not written in the law that such centres will be allowed. When Siriwat asked Col Thinachat to point out which law bars him from opening a charter referendum watch centre, the officer, however, could not give him an answer, but maintained that it is forbidden.

After the talk with the military officer, the two red shirts were taken to Phayao Provincial Hall where the Deputy Governor of Phayao informed them again that they cannot open a referendum watch centre as planned.

Siriwat told TLHR that the purpose of opening a centre is to call on people to execute their political rights via the ballot box as the draft charter referendum date is drawing near and to ask people to monitor the referendum to make sure that it will be fair.

Col Thinachat Sutthirak and other soldiers in discussion with Siriwat Jupamattha and another red shirt in Phayao on 14 June 2016 (Photo from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)