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Sedition Charge

Chiang Mai red leader denies supporting a Lanna state

Sedition charge is mistake, he tell police

HAVING SEEN fellow pro-government red-shirts face sedition charges after allegedly calling for the country to be partitioned, the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and ruling Pheu Thai Party MPs denied yesterday there was any serious talk about secession.

They said the issue had been exploited unfairly by the anti-government movement.

Pro-government Rak Chiang Mai 51 leader, Phetchawat Watthana-phongsirikul, who faces a sedition charge after army prosecutors lodged a complaint yesterday with police, denied that he supported forming a breakaway state called the People's Democratic Republic of Lanna.

Phetchawat said he had no ties to any political group believed to have promoted a Lanna republic.

He said the term merely referred to the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy Lanna, which had similar abbreviations to PDR Lanna in Thai language.

In Phayao, military prosecutors also filed a complaint with police accusing members of the Phayao Red Shirt Group of sedition, one of three crimes under Article 113 of the Criminal Code that it can result in the death penalty or life in prison.

The province's military chief Maj-General Chaiwat Thanarun called on the public to notify military officers of any banner carrying messages promoting secession.

On social media and red-shirt satellite-TV channels, images can be seen of cloth and vinyl banners with the message "This country has no justice for me, I want to partition and set up a Lanna state", which were hung up at several sites in the north recently.

A parade of pro-red auxiliary policemen held recently in Phayao was conducted with red-white flags symbolising the "PDR Lanna nation" flag.

Pheu Thai party-list candidate Phichit Chuenban said the flag was a symbolical gesture that showed the current political conflict, but people weren't really calling for partition.

He said red-shirt groups had never tried to set up a separate state.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she did not believe secession was being planned and asked the Army to treat all political groups fairly.

She was referring to Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha's order for legal action to be launched against red groups who call for partition.

Asked about those groups being allied with the ruling Pheu Thai Party, she said her caretaker government did not support secession.

She said a thorough investigation needed to be conducted into whether secession was really being planned.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul agreed with Phetchawat that what was thought to be the PDR Lanna abbreviation was instead a reference to the Assembly for Defence of Democracy Lanna - a political movement comprising pro-government supporters.

He said anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee had manipulated the issue for their gain.

"Human emotion needs to be taken into account," he said.

"When one group can cause disruption in Bangkok and further divide society, which would prompt the other group to run out of patience. This is a human nature." He did not elaborate.

In Phitsanulok last week, pro-sedition banners were erected but removed by residents who are against secession.

Police said they were tracking the people who erected the banners.

The Democrat Party said a complaint would be lodged with the Constitution Court seeking dissolution of Pheu Thai over its leader Charupong Ruangsuwan's alleged violation of Article 113 - over his alleged remark in support of partitioning the country.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said a lawsuit would be lodged against the Democrat to protect Charupong.


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