The arrest, detention and prosecution of the 4 young activists and one reporter earlier this week in Ratchaburi province have originated from allegedly carrying some document and materials which violate the Constitution Referendum Act.
Article 61 of the Act penalises “any person who publicizes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, shall be considered as a person causing confusion to affect orderliness of voting”.
The law punishes such action with imprisonment of not exceeding ten years and a fine of up to 200,000 Baht (approx. 4,00USD) and the Court may order to revoke his/her right to vote of not exceeding five years. If the offences are committed by a group of five persons or more, each person shall be punished with imprisonment of one to ten years, a fine from 20,000 to 200,000 Baht and a 10-year revocation of voting right by court.
On 10 July, police from the Ban Pong Police Station, Ratchaburi province, searched the vehicle of Mr. Pakorn Areekul, an activist of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and found document entitled the ‘Counter Opinions on the Draft Constitution: Explanation of Key Contents and 10 Issues We Should Know’, ‘Vote No’ stickers, and some other document related to the 7 August constitution referendum which included some fliers of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT). According to the police arrest records, 19 exhibits were seized as evidence in criminal case against the five suspects which include;
- A Chevrolet pickup truck
- Vinyl banner reading “Any Thai Prime Minister is subject to mocking”, one copy
- One loudspeaker
- Two microphones
- A wooden stick with flag reading “7 August: Let’s vote against the Draft Constitution”
- Bookmarks reading “Vote No”, violet (272 copies), read (263 copies), green (388 copies) and orange (450 copies), altogether 1,373 copies
- Brochures “How to cast your votes”, 66 copies
- Document “Release seven referendum prisoners unconditionally”, 21 copies
- Document “Counter Opinions on the Draft Constitution: Explanation of Key Contents and 10 Issues of the Draft that We Should Know”, 2 copies
- Document, the public statement of the Nitirat Group on the Referendum, 9 copies
- Document “How to apply to vote outside your constituency”, 70 copies
- Stickers in pink “Vote No”. 3,900 copies
- Stickers in blue “Vote No”. 4,200 copies
- Document “Seven reasons to vote against the Draft Constitution”, 127 copies
- 15. Document “How to apply to vote outside your constituency”, 123 copies
- 16. Document “Release seven referendum prisoners unconditionally”, 12 copies
- 17. Brochures “How to cast your vote in the referendum”, 252 copies
- A Paper box bearing a sticker reading “No Vote” and “Donations made to the New Democracy Movement (NDM)” on the sides of the box
- Publications “In the name of the NCPO’s (in)justice”, 30 copies
Not yet distributed but being charged with violating an offence for “publicising materials”
The police of the Ban Pong Police Station conducted the search for the materials upon receiving a report that a group of individuals were driving a pickup truck and carrying with them some document and materials in the back of the truck, despite no action of ‘distributing or publicising such materials to anyone’. According to the police document, they believed that the suspects were to distribute the document, the fliers, and brochures to campaign against the vote to endorse the Draft Constitution in Ban Pong District. In fact, the activists did not even commit any act of ‘publicising’ or distributing materials.
Further, the police did not expressly state in their paper of how the seized document and materials are ‘either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, shall be considered as a person causing confusion to affect orderliness of voting’.
In addition, the seized document and materials contain information of opinions, comments and pros-and-cons on the Draft Constitution, including the Vote-No campaigning materials, which are forms of peaceful expression of citizens on the Draft Constitution. Such expression shall be protected under Section 7 of the Referendum Act which guarantees that a person has freedom to express opinions related to voting in the referendum in a good faith and lawful manner.