Jour­nal­ist ar­rested for op­pos­ing new con­sti­tu­tion

The Myanmar Times - - World -

A JOUR­NAL­IST and four ac­tivists were charged yes­ter­day un­der a dra­co­nian law ban­ning crit­i­cism of the junta’s new con­sti­tu­tion which will be voted on in a ref­er­en­dum next month.

Taweesak Kerd­poka, a re­porter with Prachatai, was ar­rested on July 10 along­side four mem­bers of the New Democ­racy Move­ment, one of the few ac­tivist groups that dare to chal­lenge the mil­i­tary since gen­er­als seized power two years ago.

“Their ac­tions were vi­o­lat­ing the ref­er­en­dum bill ar­ti­cle 61 clause 2,” said po­lice colonel Am­nuay Pong­sawat, from Ban Pong dis­trict in cen­tral Ratch­aburi prov­ince.

He did not elab­o­rate on how their ac­tions had bro­ken the law, but the men face up to 10 years in prison if con­victed.

The clause out­lawed crit­i­cal dis­cus­sion of the junta’s new draft con­sti­tu­tion, which if passed will be­come Thai­land’s 20th in less than a cen­tury.

Prachatai ed­i­tor Chi­ranuch Prem­chaiporn said Mr Taweesak was trav­el­ling in the same car as the ac­tivists to re­port on their ac­tiv­i­ties.

Po­lice stopped the car and found doc­u­ments that they deemed were in breach the ref­er­en­dum law.

Thais will vote on the new char­ter on Au­gust 7, the first re­turn to the bal­lot box since the 2014 coup.

The junta says the doc­u­ment is the antidote to Thai­land’s caus­tic po­lit­i­cal di­vide.

But politi­cians on both sides of the di­vide have dismissed it as an at­tempt

to fur­ther en­trench the mil­i­tary’s hold on power through an ap­pointed se­nate.

Video posted on­line showed the five shack­led men mak­ing their way to court this morn­ing as sup­port­ers handed them roses.

The ac­tivists could be heard shout­ing “Vot­ing ‘no’ is our right – it is not against the law”.

A mes­sage from Mr Taweesak on his Face­book page read, “Be­ing ar­rested for ref­er­en­dum cam­paign­ing is bad, but what should we call be­ing ar­rested for re­port­ing on the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign?”

Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha, who of­ten rails against the me­dia, said po­lice were entitled to make the ar­rest.

“If [jour­nal­ists] vi­o­late laws, they will be ar­rested,” he told re­porters, adding that the press of­ten pushed for re­form “but do not re­form them­selves”.

The Prachatai web­site has a his­tory of in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism that fre­quently riles Bangkok’s ul­tra-na­tion­al­ist es­tab­lish­ment. –

Photo: EPA

Prachatai ed­i­tor Chi­ranuch Prem­chaiporn speaks to me­dia in 2012 dur­ing a pre­vi­ous ac­cu­sa­tion of in­sult­ing the monar­chy.

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