Information on banned activities related with the draft constitution

 
The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) made a public debut of its first draft of the new charter on 29th January, 2016. Two months after receiving feedbacks from a varied of agencies and revising the draft content, the final version of the draft constitution completed on March 29th before organizing the referendum on August 7th
 
During 6-month period since public can access to the draft constitutional online until the referendum day, every people were supposed to receive a full public participation to criticize, discuss and share their opinion on the draft—which lead to the healthy charter referendum. However, it turned out that at least 20 activities associated with the draft constitution were prohibited from the police and the military as follows;
 
1) 4 February, 2016—  Mathichon online reported that Mr. Komsan Phokong, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Rangsit university posted on his Facebook that the seminar under the topic “Can Constitutional draft by CDC  reform Thailand?”  was cancelled due to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) did not allow. The seminar was featured with many renowned scholars, including Assoc. Prof. Dr.   Banjerd Singkaneti, Assoc. Prof. Dr.    Udom Thumkosit, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pichai Rattanadilok Na Bhuket. Assoc. Prof. Dr.  Suwicha Pao-aree, Suriyasai Katasila,and Sunee Chaiyarot, former Human Rights Commissioner.
 
2) 13th February, 2016 — Women's Movement in Thai Political Reform known as “WeMove” organized a seminar on the topic “Constitution and the public participation” to criticize the draft charter at Amnat Charoen Kindergarten School. Later on, the military informed the organizers in the afternoon to immediately stop the seminar and asked them to pack their belongings within 5 minutes. At that time, military officers claimed that the seminar’s cancellation came from Amnat Charoen governor.  Therefore, the organizers had to quickly rearrange the talk to Route Hotel 202. Nevertheless, the group of military officers still tracked them, and called off the seminar claiming the same order.
 
3) 14 th  February, 2016 —  ‘Red Path group’ organized political activity “ Valentine Vote NO” encouraging the prodemocracy people to wear the “ Vote No ” t-shirts as well as distributing stickers at McDonald’s Victory Monument branch. After 10 minutes of arranging the this activity, 5 police officers together with 7  plain-clothes police officers tried to negotiate with the group to cancel the activity, claiming it violated Head of NCPO’s order no 3/2558(2015) which prohibit political gathering of more than 5 people. 
 
4-5) 28th February, 2016 — Prachamati website set to organize two activities that was in accordance with the draft charter. This included a public seminar entitled “What to do with the new consititution?” and the PetchaKucha 20x20 competition under the topic “constitution” at Bangkok Art and Culture Centrem (BACC) . However, the military and police pressure BACC to cancel their permission to use the convention room given that events seemed to be a political gathering which is a violation of the Head of NCPO order No.3/2558 (2015).
 
6) 1st-6th March, 2016 —Young Leadership for Social Change Project arranged “Wonder of Freedom” exhibition consisting of a booth designed alike public toilet with posters showing information on the draft charter and human rights violation. However, the military officers intervened this exhibition by calling the organizers and watching all the event. Later, military officers ordered to remove all the posters. 
 
7) 3rd  April, 2016 —  Book Re:public, an independent book shop based in Chiang Mai Province, updated its Facebook page with a status saying it regretted being unable to hold the event “Reading the Constitution as Art and Literature” after military from Kawila Military Base in Chiang  Mai asked the organizer that they cannot approve the event.
 
8) 6th April 2016— around 15 activists of New Democracy Movement (NDM) distributed the leaflets against the draft charter at the National Book Fair, Queen Sirikit Convention Center. Just after 15 minutes, the fair organizers asked them to talk and call off the activity saying that the military officials pressured them, and they don’t want other book publishers in the fair to be affected if the military do not feel comfortable with the fair.
 
9) 7th April, 2016—Citizen Forum Network set to arrange a public seminar entitled “considering to approve or reject the draft charter before the referendum” at Suan Dusit Rajabhat University. However, the event was scrapped after the venue owner where the seminar took place was afraid that it would be a political gathering event. As such, the seminar has to be held at Thai Volunteer Service building instead.
 
10) 25th -27th April, 2016—Thammasat University Student Council organized a political exhibition at Thmmasat University, Rangsit campus. The junta officials was unpleasant with the sarcastic constitutional exhibition board “Constitution of  Praa- Yuut and Praa- Vit”, and asked the university officers to tear it down.
 
11) 14th June, 2016— 5 Kasetsart university students walked and distributed leaflets against the draft constitution inside their university and were asked by the plain-clothes military officers to stop the event. 
 
12) 19th June, 2016— Ramkamhang University student activists arranged a public seminar on “the draft constitution and the referendum” at Ramkamhang University which opened opinions from people who support or against the draft freely as well as those who planned to boycott the referendum. However, the event was ordered to shut down. Hence, it moved to the meeting room of October 14 Memorial.
 
13) 19th June 2016—The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) arranged a press conference introducing a Center for Referendum Watch nationwide. Prior to the press conference, the police officers from Chokchai police station intervened the conference reasoning that it violated the NCPO order, and the Referendum Act. The police also urged Peace TV station to stop the live broadcast of this event, as well as invited key member of UDD, and audience who attended the press conference to leave the room before taking over the venue.  After that, the 19 UDD key members were charged for political gathering defying NCPO order no.7 /2558(2015)
 
Indeed, there were other related cases that the military officers prohibited red-shirt people to set up the referendum watch center in many provinces. For instance, In Payao, Siriwat Jupamattha and Thong-un Malithong were asked from the military-junta officers to report. Similarly, 10 local people in Ratchaburi were charged for defying NCPO order from gathering more than 5 people. 
 
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 142 people were charged for organizing the activity related with UDD’s referendum watch center.
 
14) 23rd June, 2016 — 13 activists from New Democracy Movement (NDM) and Triumph Labor Union were arrested by the police and the military officers after gathered to distributed ‘Vote No’ leaflets as well as a form of Election Commission (EC) to request for casting vote outside district at a market in Bangplee Community, Samut Prakarn. They were charged for defying NCPO order no.3/2558(2015) which prohibit a political gathering of more than 5 people and Section 61 the Referendum Act.
 
15) 24th July, 2016—7 activists were charged with NCPO order no 3/2558 (2015) and  Public Assembly Act for not asking for an advanced permission to hold an assembly within 24 hours. The move came after the youth distributed leaflets against the draft constitution, while they were making their way to clean the Safeguarding the Constitutional Monument at Anusawari Lak Si Circle in a commemoration day of 1932 revolution.
 
16) 15th July, 2016— Knowledge sharing event arranged by the Catholic at Xavier Hall in Bangkok was cancelled. The police said that such political seminar could not go ahead unless the organizers asked for permission in advance.  
 
17) 31st July, 2016 — Youth activists from New Generation Citizen and New Democracy Movement (NDM) planned to hold the seminar entitled “Talk for Freedom” at Khon Kaen Univesity. However, Dr. Jirawat Sanitchon, Deputy Dean of Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Agriculture, attempted to interrupt the activity on the day before, reasoning that the talk could make the institution seem ‘politically biased’. 
 
After the activists refused to follow such order, university staff cut off the electricity and water supply of the building, so they  had to use a generator to continue their activity.
 
On the following day, Dr. Jirawat and Dr. Yupin Pasukho, who is also Deputy Dean of Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Agriculture brought at least 30 police officers and soldiers to intervene the seminar. The authorities also confiscated flyers and leaflets criticizing the draft constitution and printed statement from Nitirat group, a progressive academic law group from Thammasat University, and informed them that they were accused of violating Public Assembly Act. 
The event could still going on by sitting on the floor and talking with a megaphone. A staff of Khon Kaen University and local Election Commission (ECT) officials, filed a complaint against the activities at Khon Kaen’s Mueang District Police Station for trespassing into a public building without permission to hold, and violation of the controversial Public Referendum Act
 
18 ) 1st August,2016— Midnight University scholars arranged a press conference entitled “The referendum with 3 rejections” at Chiang Mai University, faculty of law. However, the Faculty Dean verbally informed them to cancel the event, adding that the order came from the University’s Rector who servs in a political role as a member of National Legislative Assembly (NLA)
 
19) 2nd August, 2016— Dr. Titipol Phakdeewanich, the Dean of Ubon Ratchathani University, Faculty of Political Science, organized a public seminar entitled “A Free and Fair Constitutional Referendum and its implication for the Future of Thai Democracy”. The speakers included Chaturon Chaisang, former Deputy Prime Minister, Niran Pitakwatcha, National Human Rights Commissioner, Apichat Satitniramai, a lecturer from Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University., Assist Prof Trenete Sarapong, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law, Ubon Ratchathani university.
 
The day before the seminar took place, he posted on his Facebook page that the seminar had to be cancelled due to the requests from the university executives and Ubon Ratchathani Governor. The Provincial Governor reasoned that the public discussion was not necessary since local officials have already hosted such discussion despite it had already received a permission from Pol.Gen Achichat Rojanapirom, a local military commander.
 
20) Jatupat known as Pai Daodin and Wasin, student activists affiliated with the New Democracy Movement (NDM) were arrested by the police while they were distributing leaflets against the draft constitution in Chaiyaphum  – one day ahead of the referendum on the draft constitution. They were charged under article 61 paragraph 2 of the Referendum Act for circulating false information of the draft. 
 
 
The prohibition of these 20 activities may seem not so big, compared to the 40 million eligible voters across the country. However, after political campaigns against the draft charter were banned, and a number of activists were charged, it inevitably created a climate of fear in Thai society. People tended to feel that criticizing the draft constitution was a sensitive issue that could not be freely discussed. Other civil society groups, then, have to avoid the problem and risk by keeping silent. As such, most of information provided to the public came from CDC and rumors in social media which were difficult to check the accuracy of information.
 
 
 

 

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