Military hunts senders of 3,000 letters campaigning against draft charter

The military in northern Thailand has confiscated over 3,000 letters allegedly campaigning against the junta-sponsored draft constitution and is now hunting for the senders.

Maj Gen Kittisak Maenmuean, Commander of the 32nd Military Circle in the northern province of Lampang, on Tuesday, 12 July 2016, authorised soldiers to confiscate over 3,000 letters from Lampang Post Office for investigation, Matichon Online and Manager Online reported.

The military confiscated the letters after the head of the post office informed the authorities that the letters, addressed only to ‘resident’ at addresses in the neighbouring province of Lamphun, but no name of either the recipient or sender, contain messages campaigning for a ‘no’ vote against the junta-sponsored draft constitution.

After coordinating with the Deputy Governor of Lampang, the police chief of Mueang Lampang Police Station and provincial staff of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) in the investigation, the authorities said that the letters contain messages which distorted facts about the draft constitution.

They added that the letters were dropped into many post-boxes around Mueang District of Lampang.

The Commander of the 32nd Military Circle ordered that any more letters discovered must be confiscated and investigated by the authorities.

According to Pol Col Nikhom Khrueanopharat, Superintendent of Mueang Lampang Police Station, the police are currently investigating CCTV footage around the post-boxes where the letters were posted and are also collecting DNA samples from the letters in an attempt to identify the senders. 

Under the controversial Article 61 of the Draft Referendum Act, 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, could face up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years.    

The Thai authorities in Lampang Province investigate the letters campaigning against draft charter on 12 July 2016 (courtesy from Matichon Online