Military detains parents of alleged sender of anti-charter letters

The Thai police have arrested a northerner suspected of sending thousands of anti-draft charter letters after the military detained his parents.

Police officers from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) on Saturday afternoon, 23 July 2016, arrested Wisarut Khunnitisan, 38, from a condominium in Bangkok and flew him to the northern province of Chiang Mai.

According to Kunpat Singhathong, a lawyer from Free Thai Legal Aid (FTLA), the arrest was made after the Provincial Court of Chiang Mai on 22 July issued an arrest warrant for Wisarut on a charge of violating Article 61 of the controversial Referendum Act for reportedly sending thousands of letters allegedly containing distorted facts about the junta-sponsored draft constitution.

Kunpat added that prior to the arrest of Wisarut in Bangkok, soldiers cited Section 44 of the Interim Charter which gives absolute power to the authorities in maintaining security, to arrest Wisarut’s parents and took them to Kawila Military Base in Chiang Mai.

At the time of writing, it is unknown if his parents have been released or are still detained.

Winyat Chatmontri, another lawyer from FTLA, reported that the anti-draft charter letters which Wisarut is allegedly involved with are not the same as thousands of anti-draft charter letters earlier confiscated by the authorities in Lampang Province.

Winyat said that the authorities did not reveal who filed the accusation against Wisarut, adding that from his findings, the letters contain only criticisms of the draft constitution which are similar to those already made by many civil society organisations and politicians.

The FTLA attorney told media that under Article 7 of the Referendum Act, people have the rights to honestly express their opinions about the draft constitution.

Under the controversial Article 61 of the 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.

Wisarut (in green shirt) in custody of the authorities after his arrest on 23 July 2016