Activist facing 10 years imprisonment denies charge

A democracy activist accused of defying the junta’s ban on political gatherings and the controversial referendum act has vowed to fight the case in a military court while the military prosecutor wants his right to vote to be suspended for a decade.

The Military Court of Bangkok on 24 May 2017 held a deposition hearing in the case of Rakchat Wongathichat, a member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM).

Rakchat was indicted on 1 November 2016 for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order No. 3/2015, the junta’s ban on any political gathering of five or more persons.  

He was arrested together with 12 other members of the NDM for handing out flyers on 23 June 2016 calling for a no vote in the draft charter referendum to workers at Bangplee Industrial Estate, Samut Prakan Province.

The military prosecutor also indicted him for violating the controversial Referendum Act. If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years.

At the hearing Rakchat denied the charge and vowed to fight the case.

The Military Court has scheduled a preliminary hearing on the case for 3 August 2017.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, since the 2014 coup d’état, at least 242 people have been charged with allegedly violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings, while 69 people have been arrested for allegedly violating the sedition law for showing resistance against the regime.

If found guilty, Rakchat could be imprisoned for up to six months or fined up to ten thousand baht, or both.

The soldiers arresting Rangsiman Rome, key member of the NDM, on 23 June 2016 for distributing Vote No flyers. Photo courtesy of NDM