19 red shirts in Isaan summoned for joining referendum watch campaign

Almost 20 people in northeastern Thailand have been summoned after they participated in a red-shirt referendum watch campaign a month earlier.

On Thursday, 14 July 2016, security officers including soldiers, police officers, and local administration officials in the northeastern province of Udon Thani summoned 19 people who joined a local red-shirt referendum watch campaign on 19 June, to an attitude adjustment session, a form of detention with lectures from military, at the 24th Army Circle, reported Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).  

According to TLHR, about five police officers went to the house of Watsana Khenla, the former treasurer of the Red-shirt Villages’ Nationwide Federation (RVNF), on Wednesday and asked her to bring those who joined last month’s campaign to a military camp. Watsana rejected the request, saying that authorities have to show her an official document first. The authorities then came back in the evening with a summons.
 
On 19 June, Watsana held the campaign at her house in Udon Thani. The participants wore black t-shirts printed with a message reading “Referendum must not be stolen, cancelled or shamed by Burma.”
 
Pharitphon Hongthanithon, a former advisor of RVNF and co-organizer of the 19 June event, revealed to TLHR that after the event, she immediately called the local authorities and told them that she had just successfully hosted the campaign. She added that the authorities would prosecute her anyway without her call since they previously summoned her twice into a military camp and warned her not to host such a campaign.
 
“We are certain that we did nothing illegal. We just want to tell people in the province and across the country that there are people in Udon Thani who still strongly believe in the democratic ideology and are ready to fight for Thailand’s democracy,” said Pharitphon. “We know that the military will certainly prosecute us but that’s a cost we’re ready to pay in this fight. Getting wounded is normal in a fight.”
 
After the call to the authorities, a police officer came to Watsana’s house and took her, Pharitphon, and another two co-organizers of the campaign to a police station. The four were accused of violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015 which prohibits public political gatherings of five people or more.  
 
Pharitphon further added that during the past week, police officers and local administrative officials went to Watsana’s house twice, warning her and her father not to participate in any other political campaigns, reported TLHR.

TLHR also reported that at least 96 red-shirt supporters in seven provinces across the country have so far been prosecuted under NCPO Order No 3/2015 for joining the red-shirt referendum watch campaign.

The referendum watch campaign on 19 June (source: UDD Referendum Monitoring Center)