Journalist arrested for opposing new constitution
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. –
Prachatai editor Chiranuch Premchaiporn speaks to media in 2012 during a previous accusation of insulting the monarchy.