Villagers prosecuted for joining red-shirt referendum watch campaign

A group of villagers in Isaan have been summoned to a military camp as an alternative to facing criminal charges after they joined the red-shirt referendum watch campaign. Some villagers have been summoned even though they did not participate in the campaign. 
 
On Monday, 4 July 2016, 15 villagers reported to police in the northeastern province of Nong Bua Lamphu after they were alleged to have joined a red-shirt referendum watch campaign at a local Buddhist temple on 19 June, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.  
 
According to TLHR, police officers sent 12 villagers who admitted participating in the campaign to join a day-long ‘attitude adjustment session’, a form of detention with lectures from the military, at a military camp in Nong Bua Lamphu, as an alternative to being charged. The other three villagers, who asserted that they did not join the red-shirt campaign and refused to undertake the session, will be summoned again on 14 July.  
 
According to the police report, the 15 villagers breached NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which prohibits public political gatherings. The report also states that the villagers participated in the red-shirt campaign to monitor the August referendum which directly involves a political issue, reported THLR.
 
TLHR also reported that during the attitude adjustment session, the authorities, comprising police officers, administration officials, soldiers, and local Election Commission of Thailand officials, warned the 12 villagers not to join the referendum watch campaign again or they will be immediately prosecuted and prohibited from traveling abroad and performing financial transactions. 
 
After three hours of lectures at the military camp, the authorities had the 12 villagers sign an agreement promising not to participate in political activities and then released them without charge. 
 
The three villagers who refused to undertake the attitude adjustment session are Sanit Somngam, Suwachit Khampong, and Kasem Bunwichit. The three are local leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), aka the red-shirt movement, reported TLHR. 
 
According to TLHR, the junta’s local personnel had summoned the three to a military camp on 17 June, telling them not to host the referendum watch campaign within the area. The three conceded to the authorities’ request and signed a document promising not to host the campaign. The three did not even join the campaign on 19 June.  
 
However, the authorities alleged that the three broke the promise, so they were summoned together with the other 12 villagers. The three, therefore, refused to undertake the attitude adjustment session, reasoning they never broke the promise with the authorities. 
 
TLHR also reported that a number of people in other provinces across the country as well as Nong Bua Lamphu have been prosecuted under NCPO Order No. 3/2015 for joining the red-shirt referendum watch campaign, including 17 villagers in Surin, four in Udon Thani, one in Sakon Nakhon, 10 in Ratchaburi, and five in Phrae.  
 
 
The 12 villagers undertake an attitude adjustment session (source: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)