Soldiers, police intimidate staff of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

Soldiers and police officers in Chiang Mai intimidated a staff of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), asking whether he was distributing booklets against the junta-sponsored draft constitution or involving with Prachatai website.

Lt Col Pitsanupong Chaiput from the 33th Military Circle of Chiang Mai together with soldiers and police officers at 10 am on Saturday, 9 July 2016, had a discussion with Nopphon Achamat, a staff of TLHR, at a coffee shop in the northern province of Chiang Mai, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.  

The talk was held after the soldiers and police officers on Friday visited an apartment where Nopphon was residing a few times between 3pm-11pm in an attempt to meet him and only left the apartment only after they met Nopphon’s partner in the middle of the night and ordered her to contact him.

During the discussion, the authorities asked Nopphon whether he was involved in distributing copies of an New Democracy Movement (NDM)’s booklets, anti-junta activist group, which provides information on the draft constitution countering that of the junta at a public forum on the draft at Chiang Mai University on 4 July 2016.

Nopphon told the officers that he is working for TLHR and was not involved in distributing the booklets. He said that he did not participate in the forum on the draft constitution at Chiang Mai University.

The authorities also asked whether Nopphon is involved with Prachatai news website, adding that they have been monitoring his activities for a while under the framework of the law.

Before the conversation ended, the authorities told Nopphon that they might summon him for a discussion again in the future.

Yaowaluk Anupan, the Director of TLHR, said that such measure by the authorities is against human rights and creates the environment of fear which prevents people from expression their opinions about the draft constitution ahead of the upcoming referendum on the draft.

On Sunday, 10 July 2016, the police at Ratchaburi Province detained Taweesak Kerdpoka, a Prachatai journalist, three anti-junta NDM activists, Pakorn Areekul, Anucha Rungmorakot and Anan Loked, and later Phanuwat Songsawadchai, a student activist from Maejo University, Phrae campus, over the NDM booklets.

The police accused the five of violating the controversial Article 61 of the Referendum Act despite the fact that they did not distribute any booklets.

The article imposes a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years on anyone who publishes or distributes content about the draft constitution which deviates from the facts, contains rude and violent language, or threateningly discourages voters from participating in the referendum.

The five were detained at the Police Station in Ban Pong District of Ratchaburi Province for one night, but were freed on bail by the Provincial Court the next day.  

The New Democracy Movement (NDM)’s booklet (center) which provides information on the draft constitution countering that of the Thai junta