On 29 August 2016, the Ratchaburi public prosecutor indicted the case against five defendants including Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, and Mr. Anan Loket, members of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai, Mae Jo University student, and Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha, the Prachatai reporter, with the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi for the offences of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016)’s Section 61 and the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25 on the arrangement concerning criminal prosecution. All of the defendants applied for bail during trial which was granted by the Court using the same sureties placed during the police investigation for 140,000 baht (approx.4000 USD) each. The Court has scheduled a mediation hearing on 21 September 2016 and an arraignment on 17 October 2016.
The indictment states that on 10 July 2016, “the five defendants had dared to distribute some documents and blue stickers displaying messages of “7 August: Let’s Vote No to Reject the Undesirable Future” which means to say that people should be voting to reject the Draft Constitution made by the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) in the Constitutional Referendum set on 7 August 2016. The distribution of the stickers displaying such messages to general public and their colleagues who were eligible voters was an attempt to transmit texts which are inconsistent with the truth or inciting aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction, and the act was committed with five persons or more, to disrupt the referendum which was an act against the law”.
The incidence took place when the defendants no. 1-4; Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, Mr. Anan Loket, and Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha respectively had gone to the province of Ratchaburi and had their car searched during which the police officials had found documents with dissenting opinions against the Draft Constitution and several items of “Vote No” leaflets. As a result, the arrest was made and the charges were pressed against them, indicating that their behaviours had made the authorities suspect that they were going to distribute the documents.
Further, the public prosecutor of the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi indicates his request, in the indictment, from the Court to forfeit all the incriminating evidence and to revoke the right to vote of all defendants for ten years per the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two which states that any person having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum and if the act is committed by a group of five persons or more, it shall be punishable by the imprisonment of one to ten years and a fine of 20,000 baht to 200,000 baht (approx. 570-5700 USD) and the Court may revoke the right to vote for ten years.
In addition, the defendants no. 1-4 were also indicted for violating the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25 on the arrangement concerning criminal prosecution since they had refused to print their fingers for the purpose of criminal record investigation, the act of which is punishable by the imprisonment of not more than six months or a fine of not more than one thousand baht or both.
Ms. Koomklao Songsomboon, attorney, said in their defense that it has to be proven if the defendants had acted as alleged and described in the indictment of the public prosecutor or not. For example, it has to be challenged if all the incriminating evidence were offensive according to the Constitutional Referendum Act. She furthered that the intent of the defendants in making the trip to Ratchaburi province on that day needs to be challenged whether they had gone there to show their solidarity with the local residents who were pressed charges of violating the junta’s ban on political gathering on that day or to intentionally distribute the documents violating the Constitutional Referendum Act. Mr. Thaweesak, reporter and journalist from the Prachatai media outlet, was there to cover the news of people reporting for charges due to setting up a Referendum Watch Centre in Ratchaburi, but he was arrested for being present with the activists.1
Another remark was made on the element of crime under the Criminal Law since the defendants had actually not yet distributed the documents, but they were simply found having alleged materials in a vehicle by police’s search.
“All of the defendants have the right to freedom of expression according to the current Interim Constitution and they had exercised their right and freedom to campaign and disseminate the information concerning the Draft Constitution B.E. 2559 (2016) to allow the people to either vote for or against the Draft Constitution. But they are accused of committing a crime even though they had simply exercised their constitutional rights. This notion shall be used in defense of the defendants as well” said the attorney.
Among the nineteen incriminating pieces of evidence include a pickup truck belonging to one of the activists, a vinyl banner bearing the statement “Any Thai Prime Minister is subject to mocking”, a loudspeaker, two microphones, a wooden stick with flag reading “7 August: Let’s vote against the Draft Constitution”, bookmarks bearing the statement “Vote No”, violet (272 copies), red (263 copies), green (388 copies) and orange (450 copies), altogether 1,373 copies, 66 copies of brochure “How to cast your votes”, 21 copies of document “Release seven referendum prisoners unconditionally”, two copies of document “A dissenting opinion”, nine copies of document, the public statement of the Nitirat Group on the Referendum, 70 copies of document “How to apply to vote outside your constituency”, 3,900 copies of sticker in pink “Vote No”. 4,200 copies of sticker in blue “Vote No”, 127 copies of document “Seven Reasons Against the Draft Constitution”, 123 copies of document “How to apply to vote outside your constituency”, 12 copies of document “Release seven referendum prisoners unconditionally”, 252 copies of brochure “How to cast your vote in the referendum”, one paper box bearing a sticker with a statement “No Vote” and “Donations made to the New Democracy Movement (NDM)” on the sides of the box with cash the amount of 2,571 baht, 30 copies of booklet “In the name of the NCPO’s (in)justice”.2