Military orders 19 red shirts to steer clear of political activities

After being forced into taking a so-called ‘attitude adjustment session’ by the military, 19 red shirts accused of breaking the junta’s ban on political gatherings were forced to sign an agreement promising to steer clear of all political activities.  

Police in Non Sa-at District of the northeastern province of Udon Thani on Monday, 18 July 2016, summoned 19 anti-establishment red shirts to hear accusations against them and to attend a so-called ‘attitude adjustment session’, detention with lectures usually by the military, at Non Sa-at Police Station, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

The 19 villagers were informed by police that they were accused of violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons, after participating in a local red-shirt referendum watch campaign on 19 June.

In the photograph taken from the event that was posted earlier on social media, some of the 19 were wearing black shirts with the message “Referendum must not be stolen, cancelled or shamed by Myanmar.”

The police informed the 19 that the accusation against them would be withdrawn after they underwent the attitude adjustment session, but they had to sign a document to acknowledge the accusation.

After hearing the accusation, the 19 red shirts were lectured by Maj Gen Amnuay Chulnonyang, Commander of the 24th Military Circle of Udon Thani, and four other soldiers about the NCPO’s ban on political gatherings.  They were asked who ‘deceived’ them into participating in the referendum watch campaign.

The Maj Gen said that the political situation in Thailand was still unstable and that they should not do anything which could cause instability.  

Before they were released, the authorities forced the 19 red shirts to sign a memorandum of understanding, promising not to engage in any political activity in the future.

TLHR reported that one of the 19 told the media that they were not deceived into participating in the campaign, but joined the event on their own accord and that they did nothing wrong.

Four other people related to the 19 red shirts are also accused of violating the ban on political gatherings. The police, however, have not issued a summons for them yet, TLHR reported.

As the public referendum on the junta-sponsored draft constitution is drawing near, TLHR reports that the NCPO has resorted to various means to suppress people from voicing their opposition to the contentious draft constitution.

Up to now, 113 individuals have been prosecuted for voicing criticism of the draft constitution. Of these, 94 were charged with violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings, five were charged with violating the controversial Article 61 of the Referendum Act, 13 were charged with violating both, and one was charged initially with violating Order No. 3/2015 and later with Article 61 of the Referendum Act.

The photo of the 19 red shirts who participated in the referendum watch campaign in Udon Thani on 19 June 2016 (Source: United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)’s Referendum Monitoring Campaign)