Prachatai journalist, 4 activists indicted over anti-draft charter leaflets

Public prosecutors have indicted a Prachatai journalist and four anti-junta activists over leaflets allegedly campaigning against the junta-sponsored draft constitution.     

At the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi Province on Monday morning, 29 August 2016, the prosecutors formally indicted Taweesak Kerdpoka, a Prachatai journalist, and four anti-junta New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists: Pakorn Areekul, Anucha Rungmorakot, Anan Loked, and Phanuwat Songsawadchai, a student activist from Maejo University, Phrae campus.

After the indictment, the court, however, granted them bail with 140,000 baht surety each.

The five are accused of violating the controversial Article 61 of the Referendum Act despite the fact that they did not distribute any relevant material.

The article imposes a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years on anyone who publishes or distributes content about the draft constitution that deviates from fact, contains rude or violent language, or threateningly discourages voters from participating in the referendum.

Taweesak had been present at Ban Pong Police Station on 10 July to report on another event where 18 locals from Ratchaburi reported to the police over their participation in a gathering deemed illegal under the junta’s assembly ban. The three NDM activists had travelled to the police station to give moral support to the 18. When they were about to leave, however, their car was searched.

The police then detained Taweesak and the four NDM members after they found copies of an NDM booklet that contained information on the draft constitution counter to that of the Thai junta. They were released on bail the next day.

The provincial court has scheduled the conciliation proceeding for the case at 8:30 am on 21 September and the deposition hearing at 8:30 am on 17 October.

Taweesak Kerdpoka, a Prachatai journalist (far right), and four anti-junta New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists, Pakorn Areekul, Anucha Rungmorakot, Anan Loked, and Phanuwat Songsawadchai in front of Ratchaburi Provincial Court on 29 August 2016