‘Red shirts’ charged as vote looms

The Myanmar Times - - World -

lead­ers of Thai­land’s pro-democ­racy “red shirt” move­ment were charged yes­ter­day with breach­ing a ban on po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ings, as the junta clamps down ahead of a ref­er­en­dum this com­ing week­end.

Thais will de­cide on Au­gust 7 whether to ac­cept a new mil­i­tary­drafted con­sti­tu­tion in the first vote since the gen­er­als top­pled the elected gov­ern­ment in 2014.

The mil­i­tary says its char­ter – the coun­try’s 20th – will curb po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion and bring much-needed sta­bil­ity after a decade of tur­moil.

But crit­ics say the doc­u­ment is a shame­less at­tempt to ex­tend the army’s grip on power.

The grass­roots red shirt move­ment is loyal to the ousted gov­ern­ment of Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra and her brother Thaksin and is fiercely crit­i­cal of the junta.

Yes­ter­day, 19 red shirt lead­ers were charged at a po­lice sta­tion in Bangkok with breach­ing a ban on po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ings of more than five peo­ple.

“They are all charged on one charge of vi­o­lat­ing the or­der,” said Winyat Chat­moon­tree, a lawyer for the move­ment.

The charges fol­low an at­tempt to open a ref­er­en­dum mon­i­tor­ing cen­tre which was swiftly closed down by au­thor­i­ties.

The 19 were re­leased pend­ing trial, he said, adding they face up to a year in prison if con­victed.

The junta has passed a spe­cial law ban­ning cam­paign­ing ei­ther for or

against the char­ter – al­though gen­er­ally only those who push for a “no” vote have found them­selves ar­rested or in trou­ble.

Last month, po­lice even charged two eight-year-old girls for rip­ping down voter lists.

Crit­ics say the new char­ter will strait­jacket democ­racy with clauses call­ing for a fully ap­pointed se­nate and an un­elected prime min­is­ter – both of which could help the mil­i­tary elite keep its al­lies in power. –

Photo: AFP

Lead­ers of Thai­land’s pro-democ­racy “red shirt” move­ment ar­rive at the Crime Sup­pres­sion Divi­sion in or­der to re­port to po­lice in Bangkok yes­ter­day.

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