Suspects to be sent back to Chiang Mai in case related to 'distorted' letters.
ELEVEN PEOPLE including top politicians from Chiang Mai have been charged with sedition, criminal association and violating the referendum law for allegedly distributing letters that carried distorted information about the draft charter. The accused will be tried in both civilian and military courts.
The 11 people were accused of violating Article 116 on sedition and Article 210 on criminal association of the Criminal Code as well as Clause 2 of Article 61 of the Public Referendum Law.
Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation president Boonlert Buranupakorn, former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Mai Thassani Buranupakorn, Tambon Chang Puak mayor Kachen Jiakkachorn and Thassani’s sister Tharnthip Buranupakorn are among the 11 suspects.
They were yesterday escorted from the 11th Army Circle, where they had been detained for an initial seven days, for further interrogation at the Crime Suppression Division.
Deputy national police chief Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, Region 5 Police Bureau commissioner Pol Lt-General Thanitsak Theerasawat, Chiang Mai Provincial Police chief Pol Maj-General Montri Sambunnanont and top officials from the Crime Suppression Division took charge of the suspects before announcing at a press conference that they would be charged.
Pol Maj-General Chayapol Chatchaidej, chief of the Counter Crime Planning Division of the Office of Police Strategy, said the suspects had committed the crimes in an organised and systematic manner.
Post office officials in Lampang, Lamphun and Chiang Mai provinces tipped off security officials saying they had found a large number of dubious looking letters in post boxes from July 12 to 15.
Officials from the Election Commission (EC) examined the letters, suspecting that they contained messages that “distorted” the draft charter. The EC then filed a complaint at the Mae Ping Police Station in Chiang Mai, resulting in an investigation led by Srivara.
Witnesses and circumstantial evidence pointed to Wissarut Kunanitisarn as a suspect. He was arrested and charged with violating clause 2 of Article 61 of the Public Referendum Law, after which he confessed and provided information that helped police apprehend the other suspects.
Based on information provided by Wissara, police on July 26 raided local government offices in Chiang Mai as well as a company belonging to the Buranupakorn family and found the letters, Chayapol said.
Police said the masterminds included Boonlert, Thassani, Kachen and another suspect, Pairat Maichompu. Wissarut and Aimorn Dabsok produced the letters, while suspects Adipong Kammun, Krittakorn Potaya, Aimorn, Wissarut and Thewarat Rinta delivered them.
Tharntip was also accused of helping other suspects flee from police and providing them with support.
Police have asked the court to extend their detention.
Srivara said the 11 suspects would be flown to Chiang Mai and the case will be taken over by Thanitsak, who oversees the North.
Pol Lt-Colonel Thanyalak Thudi, who conducted a physical examination of the suspects, said none of the accused showed any signs of wounds or of having been assaulted.
Boonlert denied the charges and said he would only give a statement to the court.
National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Colonel Piyapong Klinpan did not answer whether the 11 suspects still have the right to cast ballots during the referendum, but he added that Police Region 5 has no more than 48 hours to seek court approval to detain the suspects.
He said the suspects would be sent back to Chiang Mai where they wield influence, but the NCPO believes that local officials would strictly follow the law.
Meanwhile, 19 members of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship including chairman Jatuporn Prompan were released without bail after they surrendered to face charges of violating the NCPO ban on political gatherings. The charges were related to their attempts in June to open fraud-monitoring centres nationwide.
The 19 people pled innocent and Jatuporn said they were released unconditionally.