Imprisoned ‘Vote-No’ Activist refused to bail himself, taking hunger strike, after prosecuting for distributing leaflets on draft constitution in the Northeast

Imprisoned ‘Vote-No’ Activist refused to bail himself, taking hunger strike, after prosecuting for distributing leaflets on draft constitution in the Northeast

Mr. Wiboon Boonphatthararaksa, father of Jatupat and attorney

The Provincial Court of Phu Khiao ordered the remand in custody of two student activists after their distributing of vote-no leaflets in Phu Khiao market, Chaiyaphum claiming a grave offence had been committed. Meanwhile,”Pai” a core member of the Northeastern New Democracy Movement (NDM), pro-democracy activist group, has refused to bail himself and been on hunger strike now. One of the two activists, Palm, has been bailed out.
On 8 August 2016, 12.20pm, in the pretrial hearing room of the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao, police officials from the Phu Khiao Police Station, Chaiyaphum, had filed a request for remand in custody of Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa, aka “Pai”, a student of Khon Kaen University and a member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and Mr. Wasin Prommanee, aka “Palm”, a student of Suranari University, the two suspects who were arrested while distributing leaflets relating to the referendum in a market in Phu Khiao municipality later afternoon of 6 August 2016. They were initially held in custody at the Phu Khiao Police Station and refused to bail themselves.

According to police’s motion of pre-trial request, it was described that the arrest was made on 6 August 2016 around 17.00, police from the Phu Khiao Police Station, police investigators, and administrative officials of the Phu Khiao District, had been informed that some individuals were distributing leaflets urging people to reject the Draft Constitution on Satharana Road, Ratbamrung, Moo 1, Tambon Phak Pang, Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum. At the crime scene, they found the alleged offender no. 1 and the alleged offender no.2 who were distributing the leaflets and other documents on the road. The officials had identified themselves and then asked to conduct the search which had led them to the discovery and seizure of incriminating evidence including (1) 128 copies of the vote-no leaflets, (2) 16 copies of the statement by the Nitirat Group, and (3) one copy of a booklet explaining the reasons against the Draft Constitution. The alleged offenders no.1 and 2 were then arrested with the evidence and both had denied the charges.

According to the inquiry officials, the alleged offenders were accused of committing an offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61(1) and 61, paragraph 2, punishable by not more than ten years of imprisonment, and against the Declaration of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25, 2006, punishable by not more than six months of imprisonment or a fine of not more than 1,000 baht or both.

The inquiry officials claimed the investigation was not done and they needed more time to examine four more witnesses and to wait for the criminal background check of the suspects, so the remand in custody should not be granted. In addition, it was indicated in the remand request that since the offences carry high penalty rate, there is a fear of flight and the tempering with evidence or the commission of other harmful acts. The alleged offender no. 1 (Jatupat) also had a pending arrest warrant by the Muang Khon Kaen Police Station for his previous violation of the Head of the NCPO Order, and should the Court grant him a temporary release, the police should be notified.

Both Jatupat and Wasin pleaded against the remand, claiming the information from the four witnesses had no major bearing on the investigation and the background check could have been done by the officials without having them remanded. Also, they have no reason to flee since they both need to go to school. As to the outstanding case at the Muang Khon Kaen Police Station as claimed by the inquiry officials, they explained that the case has not been indicted and it is a politically motivated case as well.

Based on the remand request of the inquiry officials, the Court has found the two alleged offenders had committed a grave offence carrying not more than three years of imprisonment and therefore granted the remand in custody as requested for 12 days from 8-19 August 2016.

After the remand was granted, Wasin asked to apply for bail, while Jatupat refused to do so. The bail bond worth 150,000 baht was placed with the Court as sureties to have Wasin released.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wiboon Boonphatthararaksa, father of Jatupat and attorney for both Jatupat and Wasin, revealed that prior to his arriving at the Court this morning, the police had more interrogation of the two suspects and pressed more charge against them for refusing to have their fingers printed. They have refused to have their fingers printed claiming they had done nothing wrong. Both also had refused to bail themselves while in police custody and had started a hunger strike since 10.00am on 7 August. But regarding remand hearing, Jatupat asked Wasin to bail himself out in order to resume his study, while he himself insisted on not applying for bail and would continue to be on hunger strike while in custody at the prison. He wants to affirm his innocence and wants to test the integrity of the law enforcement process and the justice process.

Around 15.00, the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao had Wasin released and he would be discharged at the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao, while Jatupat would be brought to the District Prison of Phu Khiao.

After the release, Wasin was asked to report to the Court on 22 August 2016. Wasin revealed that Pai, Jatupat wanted it known to the powers that be that “arrest us if you can, lock us up if you can, but we shall continue to fight”.

The offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61(1) relates to an act to cause disturbance to the referendum voting and against Section 61, paragraph 2 having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum.

The same documents had previously landed the NDM activists in jail in two other occasions already including the distribution of the documents at Kan Keha Bang Pli Community, Samut Prakan, and the search of a pickup truck in Ban Pong District, Ratchaburi. Cases have been reported against other students for organizing the activity “speak for freedom, the Constitution and the E-san people?” in Khon Kaen. The NDM members have all denied the charges and insisted that their documents are neither distorted nor rude.