At least 10 accused of violating junta’s order over referendum watch centres

Police have summoned at least ten people in the central province of Ratchaburi for allegedly violating the junta’s ban on political assemblies after they gathered for a meal at the red shirts’ referendum watch centre.

Police from Ban Pong District Police Station in Ratchaburi Province on Monday, 20 June 2016, issued warrants summoning Boribun Kiangwarangkun and at least 10 others in the district to report to the police station at 10:30 am on 26 June 2016. 

In the summonses, Boribun and the others are accused of participating in a political gathering without permission from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) after they gathered on Sunday at the local referendum watch centre of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main red shirt faction affiliated with Thaksin Shinawatra.

The warrants were issued after Athitaya Danmatam, another resident of Ban Pong, submitted a complaint against them, accusing them of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings.

Boribun told the media that he and the others only gathered to have a meal together on Sunday at the UDD’s referendum watch centre, adding that the gathering was aborted after less than an hour as soldiers and police officers arrived at the scene.

He said that the purpose of opening the referendum watch centres is merely to call on people to turn up for the referendum vote, currently set for 7 August 2016, and to ask people to help monitor the referendum process in order to make sure that it will be transparent.

“I now feel that this society is unjust to the people,” said Boribun.

He added that the villagers who participated in the Sunday gathering feel very intimidated after they received the warrants and that he could not contact some of them.

After police and soldiers intimidated red shirts in several provinces over the referendum watch centres last week, the authorities on Sunday stormed into the broadcasting station of TV 24 or Peace TV in Lat Phrao District, Bangkok, a TV station affiliated with the UDD and barred UDD leaders from broadcasting a ceremony to open the UDD referendum watch centres to monitor the upcoming referendum countrywide.

Appearing at the TV station about an hour before the event was due to start, the authorities ordered Jatuporn Prompan, the UDD leader, to cancel the ceremony and escorted him out of the station.

Earlier on Saturday, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, told the media that opening centres to monitor the referendum on the draft constitution is prohibited.

Gen Prayut’s latest statement contradicted his earlier statement in late May that the UDD would be allowed to run referendum watch centres.

“Opening such centres will result in arrests,” said Gen Prayut. “For those wearing ‘Vote No’ shirts, [we] are considering who is wearing them, what’s written on them and if they are illegal.”

Under the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head Order No. 3/2015, any political gathering of five or more persons is prohibited. Offenders could face up to one year in prison, a 20,000 baht fine, or both.

Boriboon Kiangwarangkul and others gather at the UDD’s referendum watch center in Ban Pong, Ratchaburi Province, on 19 June 2016

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