‘Red shirts’ charged as vote looms
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. –
Leaders of Thailand’s pro-democracy “red shirt” movement arrive at the Crime Suppression Division in order to report to police in Bangkok yesterday.