Renowned anti-junta law scholar under fire over ‘vote no’ campaign

A Deputy Prime Minister has said that a key member of a progressive law academic group might be prosecuted under the Referendum Act for campaigning for ‘vote no’.

At Government House, Bangkok, on Monday at 2:30 pm, 25 July 2016, Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister, told the media that 43 civil society groups and academics who gathered to voice opposition against the draft constitution at a public forum at Thammasat University on Sunday would not be charged under the controversial Public Referendum Act, Matichon Online reported.

He said that he has not studied the speeches of the representatives in detail, but from his understanding they merely expressed opinions against the draft constitution peacefully.

Wissanu, however, said that Worachet Pakeerut, a member of the Nitirat group, an association of progressive law academics, who was one of the main speakers at the event, might be prosecuted under Article 61 of the Referendum Act.

He told the media that Worachet told the audience while he was on stage that they should vote against the draft constitution, which could be viewed as a violation of the Referendum Act.

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.   

In the aftermath of the 2014 coup d’état, Worachet was twice accused of defying the coup makers’ orders to report to the military.

The military prosecutor filed two charges against Worachet for defying NCPO Orders No. 5/2014, issued on 24 May 2014, and No. 57/2014, issued on 9 June 2014. On 10 June 2014, Worachet’s wife reported on his behalf that he was sick and would meet with the military later. On 16 June 2014, the police arrested Worachet when he voluntarily flew back from Hong Kong.

He is currently facing trial in the Military Court on the charges.

Worachet Pakeerut (centre), a member of the Nitirat group, an association of anti-junta law academic group (file photo)