Activists risk 10 years jail term over draft referendum campaign

The 13 activists arrested for campaigning about the draft charter referendum could face up to 10 years imprisonment for ‘Vote No’ campaign.

Amid presence of pro-democracy crowd in front of the courthouse, the Military Court of Bangkok at around 6:30 pm on Friday, 24 June 2016, granted to the police the custody permission to detained 13 pro-democracy activists arrested for distributing ‘Vote No’ flyers to campaign for the upcoming draft constitution referendum.

The 13 activists 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.  

After their arrests on Thursday, the police accused them 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.

Later, the authorities also accused them 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 which deviates from the facts or contains rude and violent language.

After the Military Court detained the 13 activist, six of them requested for 50,000 baht bail each. The court released them on bail under the condition that they must not participate in any political activity in the future.

The six most of whom are activists from Try Arm Workers Union are: Rackchart Wong-arthichart, Phanthip Saengathit, Pimai Ratwongsa, Konchanok Tanakhun, Tueanjai Waengkham and Worawut Butmat.

Seven other activists most of whom are affiliated with the New Democracy Movement (NDM) who are: Rangsiman Rome, Korakoch Saengyenpan, Thirayut Napnaram, Somsakol Thongsuksai, Yuttana Dasri, Nantapong Panmat and Anan Loket, did not submit the bail request and maintain that they did nothing wrong.

The seven were taken by the authorities to Bangkok Remand Prison on Friday night.

Many people gathered in front the Military Court on Friday night to show moral support for the embattled activists. The crowd which includes academics, rights advocates and many others were singing well known democracy anthems and demanded the authorities to release them.

After the arrest of the 13, the United Nations Human Rights Office for Southeast Asian on Friday also issued a statement expression grave concerns over their arrests and urging the authorities to immediately release the activists.   

People gather in front of the Military Court of Bangkok on 24 June 2016 to support the 13 activists