‘Unrest may derail’ charter referendum

national April 29, 2016 01:00

By THE NATION

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UDD leaders denied permission to visit detained activists.



THE REFERENDUM on the draft constitution may not be held if there is unrest in the run-up to the vote, a spokesman for the drafting commission warned yesterday.
Udom Rathamarit, spokes-man for the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), noted that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had said earlier that the referendum would not be held if circumstances made it impossible. 
“If there is unrest and a lack of peace, I don’t think people will come out to vote,” Udom said, pointing out that though the interim charter requires a referendum on the draft charter, the junta still has the power to amend it.
Seree Suwanpanont, a key member of the National Reform Steering Assembly, said yesterday that the moves by detractors of the draft charter were “well organised with the goal of creating political unrest”. However, he declined to predict whether their efforts would result in the referendum being cancelled. 
He made these comments after eight people – seven men and a woman – were arrested on the charge of violating the Computer Crimes Act by allegedly posting comments against the draft charter on social media and allegedly defaming certain government figures. 
Spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Colonel Winthai Suvaree, said yesterday that the accused were also charged with violating the Penal Code for allegedly provoking public disorder. He said these people were working as a movement, not as individuals. 
United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader Jatuporn Prompan admitted that three of the eight arrested had worked or were working for him. He also accused the authorities of treating them too harshly, “as if they had violated the Communism Act, not the Computer Crimes Act”. 
He asked the government to not create an “atmosphere of dread” among the public in the run-up to the referendum, which is scheduled for August 7. 
UDD leaders tried to visit the accused yesterday at the 11th Military Circle’s Command, but were not allowed to meet them as the authorities said the suspects were being handed over to the Crime Suppression Division to seek the Military Court’s permission for their detention.
 
UDD slams ‘harsh action’
Other UDD leaders Nuttawut Saikuar and Thida Thawornseth, who tried to visit the accused, also slammed the government for what they described as harsh actions. They said such heavy-handed measures would show Thailand in a negative light in the international community. 
Meanwhile, a diagram released by the military yesterday showed that the eight accused had links with each other and also were connected in some way to red-shirt leaders Jatuporn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.
The diagram alleges that one of the detainees, Natthika Worathanyawit, was the administrator of anti-government websites, and was hired by Jatuporn and Sombat to take care of their websites of a similar nature. 
It alleges that Natthika was also linked to other detainees and they worked together to manage the websites with a budget of over Bt100,000 a month. Jatuporn had admitted that he knew two other detainees – Noppakao Kongsuwan, who took care of his Facebook account, and Thanawat Buranasiri, who had worked for the red shirts’ Peace TV. 
The activists, arrested by military officials under a special power introduced after the coup in May 2014, were being held at Phaholyothin Police Station and nearby police stations yesterday. 
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party politician Watana Muangsook yesterday criticised the authorities for detaining the eight people for posting innocent comments on Facebook. He said their detention went against the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”. He called Thailand “a new sick man of the world”.
Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Chaktip Chaijinda said yesterday that he had instructed his deputy, Pol General Sriwara Ransibhram-anakul, to monitor groups that are campaigning against the draft charter. 
Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda explained that the authorities were merely enforcing the law by detaining suspected violators of the Computer Crimes Act.