BANGKOK — An army representative on Friday said he filed criminal complaints against 12 opposition leaders and academics who spoke in favor of amending the military-backed constitution last month.
Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat, Future Forward Party chairman Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Songkram Kitlertphairote of Puea Chart Party were among those named in the complaint filed by Col. Burin Thongprapai to the police yesterday.
Political scientist Chalita Bundhuwong and news show host Sirote Klampaiboon were also accused in the same complaint. It alleged that the 12 incited unrest and sedition against the authorities when they spoke on Sep. 28. at a public panel in Pattani province about the opposition’s campaign to amend the current charter.
Burin said he represented the Internal Security Operation Command, an army-run agency tasked with counter-insurgency tasks.
In his filing, Col. Burin asked the police to prosecute the accused under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. Pattani police have yet to take action on Burin’s complaints.
Burin, who routinely filed similar complaints against critics of the military government in the past, did not cite any specific wrongdoing, but pro-establishment social media accounts have been slamming Chalita’s remarks at the panel in recent days.
Speaking in the Muslim-majority province known for its long history of independence movements against Bangkok, the academic said amending the Constitution’s very first chapter – “Thailand is one and indivisible Kingdom” – should be one option to help ease the tension.
“I hope the efforts to rewrite the constitution will give us space to discuss this. We must make it a normal thing to debate about amending many sections in the constitution … which may include Section 1,” Chalita said at the panel. “It’s not something strange.”
Pro-military news outlets soon seized her quote to accuse Chalita of advocating for a republic. In its headline on Oct. 1, prominent conservative newspaper Thai Post described Chalita as an academic “who proposed abolishing the Kingdom of Thailand.”
But Chalita said her detractors were taking her words out of context, as she clearly said in the speech that she was referring to Thailand’s unitary state, which may not grant adequate powers to local communities.
“We want a diverse and flexible state who wields a sovereign power with tolerance of differences,” Chalita said at the panel. “Thailand may not necessarily have a unitary or centralized state.”