June 2016: Referendum becomes dull, referendum fraud investigation centers closed down, seven students distributing referendum leaflets detained.

 
Period 22 May 2014 – 30 June 2016 June 2016
Number of individuals summoned 943 18
Arrests at peaceful demonstrations 245 21
Individuals prosecuted before military court 185 20
Individuals prosecuted before civilian Court 49 1
Number of individuals charged with lese majeste offense (Article 112) 68 -
Number of individuals detained under lese majeste charge 52
 
 

We are counting down to the referendum to accept or reject the draft Constitution on 7 August 2016, the second in Thai political history. Many parties have been trying to advocate for either an acceptance or rejection of the draft Constitution or a boycott of the referendum. The advocacy has not been able to be conducted in a full strength due to many limitations.

A few weeks before the referendum, many incidents haveoccured. The authorities have interpreted paragarph 2 of section 61 of the Referendum Act to limit and punish the campaigners. The arrest of activists who campaigned for a ‘vote no’ in Samutprakan Province has drawn much attention. Following that incident, students and activists in Bangken were arrested. The implementation of measures to hinder the work of referendum fraud investigation centers countrywide has resulted in at least 17 people being summoned to report themselves. As a result of these incidents, some activist groups feel resentful. However, we can indicate that the overall reaction in the country is rather quiet which is concerning before the referendum as it is a joint decision for the destiny of the country.

 

Arrest of 13 people who distributed ‘vote no to the Constitution draft’ leaflet.

 

On 23-24 June 2016, 20 people were arrested for conducting political activities. 13 were arrested in the evening of 23 June after having distributed ‘vote no to the Constitution draft’ leaflets in Samutprakan Province, while seven were arrested in the morning of 24 June while conducting commemoration activities for the Siam Revolution of 24 June 1932. The 7 individuals began by walking from Prasrimahathat temple to the Constitution Protection Monument at Laksi Roundabout and cleaned areas around the monument. All of these 20 people were charged with violating the NCPO order prohibiting public assembly. They were also charged with different laws which provide a different range of punishment. The laws applied to them were the Referendum Act, the Public Assembly Act, the National ID Card Act, and Announcements of Reformation Council. Seven of the involved were released without placing bail guarantee, six of them had to place bail guarantee and seven of them were still in prison.*

On 23 June 2016, 13 activists include Rangsiman Rome, Kachakorn, Nuntapong, Anan, Theerayuth, Yuthana, Somsakul, Worawuth, Teunjai, Peemai, Porntip, Rakchart, and Kornchanok were arrested. The military and police arrested members of the New Democracy Movement and members of the Labor Union of Triumph Company after they had  distributed ‘vote no to the Constitution draft’ leaflets and leaflets informing people how to register to vote outside their domicile district in Kayha Bangplee Community in Samutprakan Province. All of them were taken to Bangsaothong Police Station so that the police could investigate the case. Later, the police charged them with two serious offences – they were alleged to have violated section 12 of NCPO Order 3/2015 which prohibits political assembly without permission and also violated paragraphs 2 and 3 of section 61(1)  of the Referendum Act addresses causing disturbance so that the referendum could not be held peacefully.

The next evening, the investigators from Bangsaothong Police Station submitted a request to the Military Court to detain all 13 accused. They provided reasons that they needed to question ten other witnesses and were waiting for the results of fingerprint tests and criminal record checks for the accused. The police also objected to bail as they were concerned that the accused would re-commit a crime. The police further stated that the accused may obstruct and damage the investigation. The Military Court allowed the detention of the 13 accused. Six accused included Worawuth, Teunjai, Peemai, Porntip, Rakchart and Kornchanok submitted a bail guarantee with the amount of 50,000 Baht. All six were released from the Bangkok Remand Prison and Womans Prison on the same night.

 

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Seven other accused  being Rangsiman Rome, Kachakorn, Nunthapong, Anan, Theerayuth and Yuthana, Somsakul did not wish to submit a bail request as they believed that what they did was not illegal. They believed that the authorities did not have a legal basis to detain them from the beginning and for this reason, thev considered that they a did not have to request bail. Therefore, they were detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison from 24 June 2016.

The first detention period will end on 5 July 2016. Then, the seven accused will be brought to the Military Court to hear whether or not the Military Court would permit the second period of detention.*

 

Sayree Kaset (Free Kaset) was arrested from cleaning Constitution Protection Monument.

 

In the morning of 24 June 2016, seven activists include Khunpat, Uthai, Kasemchart, Kann, Suthida, Arunyika and Chanoknan walked from Prasrimahathat Temple to Constitution Protection Monument at Laksi Roundabout in order to clean the Monument for the occasion of commemoration of Siam Revolution in 1932. Once they reached the Laksi Roundabout, seven of them were taken into a van by the police to Bangken Police Station and were charged with having violated section 12 ofNCPO Order 3/2015 which prohibits political assembly of more than five people without permission and of not  notifying the authorities 24 hours prior to assembling in a public place  which is against the Public Assembly Act. After having been arrested in the morning, the police from Bangken Police Station brought them to the Bangkok Military Court to seek permission for their detention.

 
 
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In the afternoon, the lawyers for the accused submitted a request and a declaration objecting to the detention. The Military Court dismissed the  detention request and provided reasons that the accused were students and had fixed domicile; therefore, they were released from the Military Court in the evening of the same day.  

Since the coup on 22 May 2014, 245 people were arrested for public assembly.

 

 

Close down of referendum fraud investigation center

 

The United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) aimed to monitor the transparency of the referendum; it set up centers countrywide to monitor corruption during the referendum. However, police and military officers have taken control of the centers and implemented all possible measures to halt activities of UDD.

 

For example, police and military officers took over referendum fraud investigation center at the Imperial World shopping mall in Ladprao on 19 June 2016. They asked the UDD to stop broadcasting and conducting  press conferences. Furthermore, they put a sign ‘This is not a referendum fraud investigation center’ around the room used for press conferences.  

 

On 14 June 2016, the 34th Military Circle called two redshirt leaders in Prayao Province, Siriwat Jupamutta and Thong-uon Malithong, for an interview  in the military camp. The military informed them that they may not set up the centers as there was no legal authority for it and because the centers would create disturbance in the country. On the same day, military officers from 33rd Military Circle and police officers from Maeping Subdistrict Police Station also called UDD leaders in Chiangmai to discuss similar matters. UDD leaders also experienced similar obstruction from the military and police; for instance, in the North, in Payao Province or in Nikhomkunsoy District in the Northeast, in Mookdaharn Province. In Central region, ten villagers in Rachburi Province who had launched a center were summoned asa result of allegations that they had  gathered more than five people on 20 June. Later on, 15 other people were summoned for the same incident.

 

From the close down of referendum fraud investigation center incident, at least 17 people were summoned to report themselves. Since the coup on 22 May 2014, at least 943 people were summoned. 

 

Interference/ban at least four activities


 

‘FCCT was asked to cancel a talk on Thai Buddhists and politics’
 

VoiceTV reported that on 14 June 2016 police officers from Lumpini Police Station sent a letter to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) and asked for their cooperation to cancel a talk with the topic of "Thai Buddhism: Seized by Politics?". The talk was scheduled for 22 June 2016 with two speakers; Sulak Sivalak and Vijak Panich, independent academics on Buddhism.

 

The military claimed that ‘Walk for Rights’ group violated Public Assembly Act and chased them from the temple that they spent a night at.

 

On 30 June 2016, Facebook Page ‘New E-Saan Movement’ reported that around 30 military and police officers entered Laodone Temple, Raseesalai District, Srisaket Province where Esaan Right to Life movement group had spent a night organized by New E-Saan Movement. The military asked about the administrator of the Facebook page, and asked them to remove video clips with a content against non-democratic government. In addition, they informed the movement that their activities may have violated the Public Assembly Act and pressured them to leave the area within one hour.

 

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Police and military negotiated with the students of Ramkhamheang University who insisted to organize three-party-talks on 'Vote Yes – No-Boycott’

 

On 15 June 2016, Nunthapong Panmard, a student from Voice of the Youngs group at Ramkhamheang University posted a picture with a message on his personal Facebook stating that the military had asked them to change a venue for a gathering. Later, the deputy of the Metropolitan Police Division 4 told him that ‘Can’t you read that it is against the law? Don’t you have brain? It is against the law and cannot be done.’ At the end, they organized their activities at 14 October Monument. (http://www.matichon.co.th/news/195718)

 

The Resistant Citizen group was prohibited to dance to a song ‘Citizen hitting with a knee’.

On 20 June 2016, the Resistant Citizen group held an activity ‘Citizen hitting with a knee’ to dance to a song ‘This should be hit by a knee’ around the area of the Office of Election Commission, at the Government Complex (Cheangwattana). The objective of the activity was to protest the fact that the Election Commission (EC) made a complaint under paragraph 2 of section 61 of the Referendum Act to the police against actors in the music video they had made. At the event, a group of ‘Thai Hua Jai Kern Roy” (Thais with Powerful Heart) demonstrated their objection against Sirawit, a member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and gave some flowers to show their support to the EC. The confrontation developed into chaos until the police banned the NDM from conducting their activities and took Pansak to Thungsonghong Police Station to record the incident. Pansak was released without having been charged.

 

From iLaw’s documentation, since the coup on 22 May 2014, there have been 129 interferences/bans of activities.

 

Updates on lese majeste cases


 

Tom Dundee imprisoned for seven years and six months for 112 charges

On 1 June 2016, the Criminal Court announced its  verdict to imprison Tanat or Tom Dundee for seven years and six months according to section 112 for having made a speech on a particular  occasion which could be divided into three offences. The Court stated that he must sing a reconciliation song and plant some trees for royal honor. The judge responsible for this case explained that the wrongdoing needs to be divided into five offences from a speech he gave in one day according to the indictment. The offences are three defamation cases against the King, one defamation offence against the Queen and one offence for having posted a video clip of the speech on Youtube. However, the Director-General and a Deputy Director-General of the Criminal Court, agreed, following consultation with them, that three defamations against the King had been conducted in the same period; therefore, it was only offence.  The Court sentenced Tanat based on three offences. He was sentenced to five years of imprisonment for each offence which is  15 years in total.  Since Tanat confessed and accepted the conditions stated by the Court, the Court reduced his sentence by half to seven years and six months. 

 

Parents of Haritt, a defendant in the case of eight administrators, submitted a petition to the crown requesting for bail.

 

On 3 June 2016, Winyat Chartmontree, lawyer and Harid Mahaton, father and Nuttharika Worathaiwit, mother of Haritt, a defendant of 112 offences, submitted a petition to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary requesting for the right to bail a defendant. Having submitted the petition, the lawyer made a copy of the petition and submitted it to the Bangkok Military Court as an additional document for bail request. In addition, they placed 500,000 baht as a bail guarantee. The Court  considered that the punishment for 112 offences was high and  if the defendant were released on bail, he would flee, obstruct or damage the investigation.

Therefore, the Court did not change its decision and dismissed the defendant’s bail request. At present, the case is at the fourth detention period.  

 

The Court rejected the fourth bail request in the case of a defendant falsely claiming ‘the Crown Princess’

 

On 6 June 2016, Kampeangpetch Provincial Court scheduled provincial prosecutor, Adssadaporn and Nopparit for a pretrial hearing . The Court asked for their plea for 112 charges and for faking official documents  after they were alleged to have falsely referred to the Crown Princess to demand abenefit from Sai-gnam temple, Kampeangpetch Province. Both of them pled not guilty in relation  to both charges. After relatives of Mr. Nopparit were questioned, the 2nd defendant requested for bail by placing a title deed with a value of 1.7 million Baht. However, the Court rejected his request because the punishment is high and he was charged with many offences. The Court was of the view that if the defendant was released on bail, he may flee. This bail request is the fourth request e that the defendant had submitted which was later turned down by the Court. 

 

Plea session for Thanakorn Case postponed: the case of defamation of the King’s pet dog

On 9 June 2016, the Bangkok Military Court scheduled Thanakorn to plead guilty or not guilty of three charges including having posted sarcastic comments against the King’s pet dog, clicking like page and posting corruption chart of Rajaphak Park. They are offences under section 112 and section 114 of the Criminal Code and Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act. Thanakorn’s lawyer filed a request to the Court asking the Court to rule on the jurisdiction of the Court over the case first according to the Arbitration of Court Jurisdiction Act.  The Court will send the opinion of Thanakorn’s party to Samutprakarn Court within 30 days. Once Samutprakarn Court has sent back its comment, the Court will summon the parties to hear its decision or order. The trial shall be halted until the jurisdiction matter has been solved.  

 

Other cases

20 June 2016, the Bangkok Military Court called Sao to hear the accusation against him and asked for his plea after he had received medical treatment at Galaya Rajanakarindra iInstitute and was released on bail in June 2016. The Court informed him that the prosecutor had indicted him with lese majesete offence. The indictment further referred to Sao’s petition to the criminal branch of the Supreme Court. The Court then asked Sao for his plea and he pled not guilty. The Court scheduled a hearing for evidence examination on 19 September 2016.

 

On 21 June 2016, the Court sentenced ‘Thaweesin’ to ten years imprisonment. However, the sentence was reduced by half as he had confessed. The Court also dismissed his request for a light sentence as they believed that this case affected people mentally. In the courtroom today, Kwanjai, the co-defendant in this case was also present before the Court as she pled not guilty and decided to continue with the court’s procedure. The Court threw out her case from one of Thaweesin and the prosecutor would need to work on her case separately.

 

On the same day, for 112 case of Tom Dundee, the Court postponed the witness examination since witnesses of the prosecutor was not able to be present in court due to his official duty. The prosecutor requested that the Court postpone the date. However, the defendant indicated that he would like to change his plea and would like to confess. The Court cancelled the schedule for witness examination. The prosecutor made a request to the Court to amend the indictment by adding that they would like to ask the Court to sentence the defendant in a continuous manner from the sentence given by the Criminal Court which was seven years and six months. The lawyer objected to such request and gave reasons that the case at the Military Court was related to the one in Criminal Court. Therefore, they should be prosecuted together at the same time. The defendant had faced unnecessary difficulties from the fact that they had been prosecuted in two courts. After the lawyer had objected the prosecutor’s request, the Court asked the lawyer to submit a written objection in seven days. The Court scheduled both parties to hear its order on the sentencing on 11 July 2016. 

 

On 23 June 2016, Akkaradej was released after having been detained in the Bangkok Remand Prison for 754 days. 

 

On 24 June 2016, the Military Court briefly read an indictment that on 19 October 2015, Wichai pretended to be someone else on Facebook and posted video clips and pictures with content defaming the monarchy. In the courtroom, Wichai denied all the charges and stated that he would like to defend the case.

Hence, the Court scheduled 18 October 2016 to examine the evidence.

 

 

 

Updates on other freedom of expression cases


 

On 2 June 2016, the police passed on the case file of ‘University is not military camp’ to the prosecutor. On 6 July 2016 at Chiangmai Military Court, the prosecutor will decide whether or not to prosecute this case. 

 

On 3 June 2016, Prachatai reported that Loei Provincial Juvenile Observation and Protection Center issued a letter dated 2nd June 2016 to ‘Ploy’, a 15-year-old-Youth Citizen Journalist. The issuance of this letter was a result of Ploy’s parents having  submitted a letter to the Center asking its opinion on the case that Thungkam Co.Ltd. sought its permission to prosecute Ploy with defamation by advertisement. Loei Provincial Juvenile Observation and Protection Center stated in the letter that it did not allow Thungkam Company to prosecute her in the Juvenile and Family Court.  

 

On 7 June 2016, the Bangkok Military Court was scheduled to ask Natchacha’s plea in the case of violating NCPO Order No. 2/2015 in relation to an allegation of a political gathering for more than five people. Prior to the plea session, the Military Court read out

a ruling on jurisdiction in which Prathumwan District Court was of the opinion that although the NCPO Order did not receive an acknowledgement from the King or the Parliament, the Order shared the same rank with other acts. This was due to the fact that the NCPO successfully seized power and took control of the country on 22 May 2014; it had n authority to enact legislation so that the country would run smoothly.  Furthermore, NCPO Order 37/2014 indicated that offences against the Monarchy, security, and NCPO Orders shall be under the jurisdiction of the military court. Such Order did not specifically define ‘defendant’; civilians may be adjudicated by military court. After the reading, the Court postponed Natchacha’s plea session. 
 
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On 8 June 2016, the Criminal Court read out a decision of the Court of Appeal on Nattapol or Jayjay, the punk musician who was accused of having damaged public property by spray painting signage of the Criminal Court on 24 May 2015. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Court of First Instance that the defendant damaged and devalued public property and that he should be imprisoned for one year, but that the sentenced should be suspended for two years. During the suspension, he shall report himself to a probation officer three times a year and participate in community service for 12 hours. In addition, in order that he would be chastened, the Court shall fine him 9,000 Baht but it shall be reduced to 4,500 Baht because he had confessed.  

 

On 10 June 2016, the Bangkok Military Court read out a ruling of Pratumwan District Court on jurisdiction. In the ruling, it stated that the jurisdiction in the case of Citizen Resistant was under the Military Court. However, d the Military Court failed to read out the details from Pratumwan District Court to four defendants. During the trial, they submitted a request to the Military Court to pass the issue to the Constitution Court to consider whether the NCPO announcement and the law applicable to this case violated the present Constitution.  The prosecutor had declared that he needed 30 days to write an objection to this request. Therefore, the Military Court postponed the trial and would schedule both parties to hear its ruling on the request. 

 
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The defendants in the case of train trip to Rajaphak Park objected that the case shall not be under military court.

The Bangkok Military Court was scheduled for a plea session for six defendants on 15 June 2016. The defendants were indicted with violating NCPO Order 3/2015 prohibiting an assembly of more than five people for the event that they took a train trip to Rajaphak Park to investigate a corruption scandal on 7 December 2015. During the trial, defendants no.1-5 (except Vijit, defendant no. 6) submitted a petition to the Court stating that the Bangkok Military Court did not have a jurisdiction over this case since the six defendants were civilian and the incident occurred in Thonburi Train Station which was under the jurisdiction of Talingchan District Court. Therefore, Talingchan District Court shall have a jurisdiction over this case not the Bangkok Military Court. The military prosecutor did not object to the petition; however, it would submit a petition objecting to the jurisdiction issue within 30 days. The Court postponed the trial until Talingchan District Court would send an opinion on the jurisdiction issue. 

 

The case of moving Khonkaen Transport Co.Ltd.: the first case of Public Assembly Act has been ruledOn 20 June 2016, Khonkaen District Court read its verdict on the case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. In this case, the prosecutor of the District Court prosecuted seven leaders who opposed the move of Khonkaen Bus Station for having illegally organized a public assembly as they failed to notify the authority 24 hours in advance, obstructed the entry and exit of the bus station or disturbed the usage of public transport station and government offices. Before the Court read the decision, Patthanasan Sa-gniemsee, Somdej Kamsui, and Sawart Ubhard, defendants no. 1, 3, and 6 had announced to the Court that they would like to retract their confession. Furthermore, they would like to give another statement and defend the case to prove the truth. As a consequence, the Court read its ruling for defendants no. 2, 4, 5 and 7 who had confessed. The Court found the defendants guilty as prosecuted.  Defendant no. 4 committed divisible offences and shall be punished for all of them. Defendants no. 2 and 4 were fined 2,000 Baht each for having organized a public assembly without notifying the authorities and fined 2,000 Baht each for having assembled and obstructed the entry and exit of government office.

For more detail of the case, please see  

 

On the same day, the Bangkok Military Court asked Sirawit whether he would plead guilty or not guilty for the case that he violated conditions of release according to NCPO Announcement 40/2014. However, the Court dismissed Sirawit’s petition to postpone the plea session as the prosecutor had objected to it. This was due to the fact that the defendant had not appointed Khumklao Songsomboon as his lawyer. Ms. Khumklao; therefore, did not have power to sign that petition as a lawyer who collated the written petition. Later, Sirawit made a statement to the Court that he did not have a lawyer and did not want the Court to assign a lawyer for him. On that day, he was not ready to plead, so he would like to ask for a postponement of the plea session. The Court considered his request to be reasonable; the Court postponed the session to 26th July 2016. 

 

In the case of Professor Worachet, the witnesses for the prosecutor were questioned. The defendant’s lawyer testified that NCPO Order No. 17/2014, summoning more people in addition to Order No. 5/2014, which stated that if the person had reported himself or notified the authority about the difficulty to do so, he would not have been prosecuted. The witness was aware that Patcharin, Worachet’s wife, had informed of his difficulty; nonetheless, the witness had reported to the police that Worachet had never informed of his inconvenience. Once the lawyer cross-examined the witness, the witness stated that he was only responsible when people who had been summoned, reported themselves to the authority. The witness further added that the documents provided by the defendant’s lawyer only consisted of statements. The witness, himself, was not aware how the police would proceed with the case. During the trial, the defendant’s lawyer did not question his witness. The next witness examination session has been scheduled on 23 September 2016.

 

On 22 June 2016, the witnesses, who were military officers present at the assembly, in Panmanee Sombath case were questioned. The next witnesses will give testimony on 27 September 2016. 

 

On 30 June 2016, the Court of Appeal ruled on Sombath Boon-gnam-anong case and found him guilty for not having reported himself according to the NCPO Order. The Court sentenced him to two months imprisonment and fined him 3,000 Baht. However, the imprisonment sentence was suspended for one year.

 

 

 

Other freedom of expression situations


 

On 13 June 2016, representatives from Peace TV submitted a letter objecting to the highest administrative sentencing – revocation of broadcasting license at the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). Ms. Arunothai Siribut, one of the representatives from the station stated that they submitted a letter in order to object to a resolution of a Sub-Committee on Channel Programme Plan and Content. As Mr. Supinya Klanarong revealed that the Sub-Committee would consider three programmes including “Kao Jai Trong Kan Na” (We all understood) on 11 and 21 March 2016, “Kem Kao Deuk” (Intensive News at Night) on 24 March 2016 and “Newsroom at night” on 28 March 2016.  The Sub-Committee may consider revoking the license. It was stated in the objecting letter that those programmes aired on those dates had the contents which NCPO Announcement No. 97/2014 and 103/2014 prohibited to broadcast. The broadcasting of those programmes violated conditions to broadcast under the memorandum of understanding signed with the NBTC as their contents were political and they criticized the Constitution draft and the referendum.

 

 

On 14 June 2016, students of Sayree Kasetsart (Free Kasetsart Group) distributed leaflets around the area of the Faculty of Social Science campaigning to students and other people to cast their vote for the referendum. Shortly after, they were informed by the University that police and military officer in plainclothes had discussed the matter with the University and they would like to intervene in the activity. The University Broad did not want the officers to arrest and detain the students; therefore, they asked the Sayree Kasetsart Group to temporarily cease their activity. 

 

*Latest, the Bangkok Military Court dismissed the request to further detain seven activists and released them in the morning of 6th July 2016. 

 

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