On August 6, 2016, police officers reportedly arrested student activists Chaturapat Boonyapatraksa of Khon Kaen University, and Wasin Prommanee of Sunaree University of Technology, for distributing leaflets critical of Thailand’s draft constitution.
On the afternoon of August 6, student activists Chaturapat Boonyapatraksa and Wasin Prommanee, both members of the student-based New Democracy Movement (NDM), distributed leaflets critical of the Thai military junta’s draft constitution at a market in Chaiyaphum. While they were distributing flyers, as many as 10 police officers, soldiers and government officials reportedly arrived on the scene, where they then confiscated the students’ materials and arrested them on charges of violating Article 61 of the Public Referendum Act, which bans the spreading of “false,” “rude,” “inciting” or “intimidating” publications or messages concerning the draft constitution. Authorities later added a second charge of violating Announcement No. 25 of the Council for Democratic Reform, which criminalizes the refusal to be fingerprinted. If convicted, the student activists could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to 200,000 baht (roughly US $5,755), and a loss of voting rights for five years.
On August 8, Prommanee was released from custody after posting bail of 150,000 baht (roughly US $4,315). He is scheduled to appear in court on August 22. Boonyapatraksa reportedly refused to post bail and announced that he would go on hunger strike to protest the charges against him. He will be held in custody until his next detention hearing on August 19.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the imprisonment and prosecution of students as a result of nonviolent expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association, so long as such rights are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Imprisonment and prosecution aimed at limiting expression and association undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression, freedom of association, due process and fair trial.