More human rights activists face prosecution long after referendum

More human rights activists face prosecution long after referendum

On 26 September 2016, the police issued a summons for five more people to report to the Khon Kaen Provincial Police due to a public discussion on the Draft Constitution, prior to the 7 August Constitutional Referendum Day, at Khon Kaen University in Northeastern Thailand. The five summoned people, including a former Member of Parliament from Pheu Thai Party, a lecturer at Khon Kaen University in Northeastern Thailand, one anonymous activist, and two New Democracy Movement (NDM) members: Mr. Rangsiman Rome and Mr. Panupong ‘Nice’ Srithananuwat, were scheduled to report to the police at the Khon Kaen Provincial Police at 10 am on 28 September 2016 to hear the charges. The summons indicates the ground on which the recent five people were accused of as together violating the Order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) no. 3/2015, which bans any political gathering of five persons or more. Mr. Rangsiman Rome, one of the five and key member of the NDM, is also facing charges and military court’s proceedings in Bangkok under the Constitution Referendum Act 2016 Section 61 and the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2015 for distributing documents that deemed to prevent voters from casting a ballot or convey to vote.


The summons against the five people does not provide details of accusations and circumstance of their alleged actions, since it only states that they are accused of violation of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2015 (12) which prohibits a gathering of five persons or more for political purposes. More details will come once the police inform charges against them on 4 October 2016. Nevertheless, the case has stemmed from the 31 July 2016 event titled the ‘Talk for Freedom: The Constitution and Isaan People’ forum at the Faculty of Agriculture, Khon Kaen University, organized by the student activists to discuss the Draft Constitution and its implications on Thai people living in Northeastern Thailand.

Earlier in August, a week after the Constitution Referendum, Khon Kaen Provincial Police issued summons to six people including student activists and human rights defenders for the same charges; violating the ban of political gathering of five persons or more under the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2015. They were informed of the charge on 31 August 2016, and requested to submit their written statements with more witnesses and evidence by 4 October 2016. One of the six alleged offenders is Mr. Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a well-known young activist of the Dao Din Group which bases in the Northeast and member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), who was released on bail from 18 days in detention with 13 days of hunger strike in two different cases related to his exercise of peaceful assembly. Further, three of the six were human rights observers which included two of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) documentation officers, Ms. Duangthip Karnrit and Ms. Neeranuch Niemsub, as well as Ms. Natthaporn Arjharn, local land rights activist, who were present to monitor the public discussion and had no involvement with the organizing team. Although they clearly identified themselves as observers with the authorities, they were accused of the same charge.

As at the end of September 2016, there are 11 people who have been facing accusations and charges in this case which originated from a public discussion over the draft constitution  in Khon Kaen. They all will appear at the Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station on 4 October 2016  at 10 am. The first six who were already informed of the charge will present themselves with their written statements to police while those five recently-summoned will appear to be informed of charge and accusations against them.

The 11 people would face trial in a military court, if indicted, since the alleged offences were committed prior to the enforcement of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 55/2016, which discontinues the practice of prosecuting civilians in military courts for crimes committed on 12 September 2016 onward. The Order does not apply to pending civilian cases or those committed before such date.

Although the activity was carried out prior to the Constitutional Referendum, which won approval from Thai voters, yet many activists and people have continued to face legal actions resulted from their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and assembly. At present, 213 persons are facing prosecutions with various offences concerning the referendum, with the greatest proportion of defying the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2015, which prohibits political gatherings of five persons or more.

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