Court detains activists for denouncing junta’s referendum

A provincial court has detained three anti-junta activists accused of discrediting the junta’s referendum on its controversial draft constitution.

Update: On 14 December 2016, Phra Khanong Provincial Court granted bail to the three suspects after Boonlert Wisetpricha, a lecturer from Thammasat University’s Faculty of  Sociology and Anthropology, offered 200,00 baht as surety for each suspect. The suspects will be summoned again on 27 December to attend a reconciliation session and a deposition hearing.  

On 13 December 2016, the Provincial Court of Phra Khanong District, Bangkok detained Piyarat Jongthep, the head of the For Friends Association, an association providing assistance to political prisoners and dissidents. Also detained were Jirawat Aekakkaranuwat and Thongtham Kaewpanpruek, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

The detainment came after the public prosecutor indicted them for disrupting the controversial referendum over the junta-sponsored draft constitution that took place on 7 August 2016.

Two university lecturers used their positions to submit bail requests for the three. However, the court denied bail, reasoning that the lecturers are not related to the three and are not their employers.

The defence lawyer of the three said that on 14 December he will try to raise 200,000 baht for each of the three and submit a bail request for them again.

Piyarat was detained on 7 August 2016 after he tore up his referendum ballot paper at a polling station before shouting the slogan “dictatorship shall be ruined and democracy shall triumph”.

He was indicted of violating Articles 59 and 60 of the controversial Public Referendum Act together with Articles 188 and 358 of the Criminal Code.

As for Jirawat and Thongtham, they were accused of violating Article 60 of the Public Referendum Act for recording a video clip of Piyarat as he was tearing up the ballot paper and posted it on Facebook.

In a hand-written statement, Piyarat wrote “I will fight the case in a court that has used the power of dictatorship to distort the law’s legitimacy and democratic principles. I will fight the case in a judicial system that arrests and imprisons those who criticise the constitution draft. This is a draft that destroys the principles of law and the rule of law to such a degree that it will be difficult to find a solution and which lacks security for the liberty and freedom of the Thai people.”

Piyarat Chongthep at the polling station which he tore down the referendum ballot (Photo from Khaosod)