BANGKOK — It’s been one year since the referendum on the junta-backed constitution was staged, but hundreds of people remain on trial for expressing their opposition to it, a civil rights watchdog said Sunday.
In a published report, the Internet Law Reform Dialogue, or iLaw, said 203 people are still being prosecuted for activism in the period leading up to the referendum, which took place one year ago today. Their offenses range from posting critical remarks on Facebook and organizing unsanctioned discussions to someone filmed tearing apart a ballot.
Of those accused, 160 were charged with violating the junta’s ban on protests and political activities, while the rest are being prosecuted under a draconian special law enacted to prohibit most forms of campaigning in the four months before the vote took place.
A junta spokesman said there’s no amnesty on the table for offenses related to the Aug. 7, 2016, referendum.
“Everything has to go through the legal proceedings,” Col. Winthai Suvaree said Monday.
In the months leading up to the vote, the authorities routinely arrested campaigners and censored those who voiced criticism against the draft charter. The climate of repression led critics of the junta to denounce the referendum as a sham.
The iLaw report highlights notable cases such as that of a Khon Kaen man who was arrested after he published a Facebook post saying he would “vote in the referendum, but I will reject the charter draft written by the bandits who robbed our nation.”
The organizer of a panel discussion about the charter draft was also charged with violating the ban on public gatherings.
Charges were also filed against a man who filmed his friend, activist Piyarat Chongthep, tearing his ballot in an act of defiance at a polling place. Police accused him of encouraging unrest in the country by filming and sharing the video.