Authorities prohibit activists from campaigning for ‘rights to campaign’

Thai junta has just set a new standard of censorship after police officers confiscated anti-junta activists’ balloons and stickers campaigning for the right to campaign for the August referendum. 
 
After seven student activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM), a pro-democracy activist group, were arrested and later detained last week for handing out flyers campaigning to Vote No in the August referendum, they were visited by other NDM activists on Monday, 27 June 2016, at Bangkok Remand Prison, Matichon Online reported
 
According to Matichon Online, the visiting activists came along with pink balloons printed with the message “campaigning is not a crime.” But police officers, some in plain clothes, confiscated all the balloons, leading to a brief clash between the two sides. 
 
 
 
The brief clash between NDM activists and the authorities (source: Matichon Weekly 's Facebook page)
 
The authorities searched the activists and found Vote No campaign stickers and confiscated these as well, citing the Referendum Act. About 80 stickers and over 100 balloons were reportedly confiscated in the incident.
 
Chanoknan Ruamsap, an NDM activist and one of the visitors, told the media at the prison that the seven were being exploited by being forced to clean up the prison. However, they still had high morale and insisted on not requesting bail since they believed that they did not do anything illegal. 
 
Chanoknan revealed to Prachatai that the seven were ordered to do various laborious tasks such as cleaning latrines, sweeping the grounds and brushing jail bars, which is more intense than the detention conditions of the 14 student activists arrested in 2015. A detained activist told Chanoknan that he assumes that authorities have imposed hard labour on them to pressure them to request bail.      
 
“If the draft charter passes [the referendum], people will be living in jail for another five or 10 years, just like what we are facing, and that’s actually worse,” read the message from Rangsiman Rome, one of the seven detained activists. “Don’t worry about us. Although the prison is using every method to make us want out, we’re still fine.” 
 
 
Plainclothes police officers confiscate balloon from NDM activists (source: Matichon Online)
 
 

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