UN worried by lack of freedoms

UN worried by lack of freedoms

PM calls Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to 'clarify' NCPO role

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spent five minutes 'expressing concern' about lack of freedoms in Thailand, and he took 25 minutes answering him. (Photos by Post Today, UN.org)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spent five minutes 'expressing concern' about lack of freedoms in Thailand, and he took 25 minutes answering him. (Photos by Post Today, UN.org)

The UN secretary-general has raised concerns over freedom of expression with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a 30-minute telephone conversation as red-shirt leaders filed a complaint Monday with the UN against the regime's operation to block the opening of their referendum watchdog centres.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on Monday filed a petition with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Bangkok. It complained its rights were violated after it was banned from opening provincial centres to monitor fraud in the Aug 7 charter referendum.

Gen Prayut, who called Ban Ki-moon Monday morning, said that he had talked to the UN secretary-general for about 30 minutes, and explained to him what was going on in Thailand.

"Most of the conversation consisted of me talking for about 25 minutes and the rest belonged to the secretary-general," he said.

He told Mr Ban about the charter referendum and preparations for a general election. "I told him everything is proceeding according to the road map," he added.

Gen Prayut said he also told Mr Ban about activities by groups with "ill intentions" toward the country and also informed him of the UDD's petition to the UN office in Bangkok.

Gen Prayut admitted that Mr Ban expressed concern about the issue of freedom of expression in Thailand during their conversation.

"Still, I explained to him that we have such freedom. As for the draft charter, people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions," he said.

He also told Mr Ban that some political parties were not cooperative, and the UN secretary-general replied that was understandable.

Asked whether some UDD core members who had broken agreements made with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) would now face legal action and suspension of all financial transactions, Gen Prayut said he was considering what course of action to take.

Gen Prayut also threatened legal action against UDD members who have defied the NCPO on social media.

Meanwhile, UDD chairman Jatuporn Prompan said after submitting the petition to the UN that the UDD decided to submit the petition because on Sunday its centres were opened in only 47 provinces. In 29 other provinces, UDD members were prevented from opening the monitoring centres by the NCPO.

He claimed that some people wearing black shirts similar to those worn by UDD members had been intimidated by military and police officers, and others had been charged in military court. He did not disclose any further details.

Mr Jatuporn was accompanied to submit the petition by UDD secretary-general Nattawut Saikuar, Tida Tawornseth, Weng Tojirakarn and other UDD core members.

Mr Jatuporn said he hoped Gen Prayut would bear in mind that he had contradicted himself regarding the fraud-monitoring centres.

He said Gen Prayut had earlier said the centres could be opened, even though he did not like the idea, but later had them closed.

Mr Nattawut said the UDD wanted the UNHCHR to understand that the atmosphere during the lead-up to the referendum in Thailand was different from other parts of the world, because the people here had no rights or freedoms and the UDD's attempt to participate was deemed illegal.

Asked about Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon's suggestion that the UDD should work with the Election Commission (EC) to monitor fraud instead of setting up its own anti-fraud centres, Mr Nattawut said that was not possible because the EC had never shown any intention of wanting to cooperate.

Mr Nattawut also said some former members of the People's Democratic Reform Committee and those who tend to support the draft charter have been invited to speak in the EC's referendum publicity campaign television programme scheduled for broadcast between next Monday and Aug 6.

He said that this is not a publicity campaign, but a plan to woo voter support for the draft charter and only "one side" has been given a chance to participate in the EC's programme.

Gen Prawit rejected Mr Jatuporn's claim that the prime minister allowed monitoring centres to be opened.

The prime minister only said that he would not accept such centres as legal entities if they were to be opened, Gen Prawit said.

If the centres violate the referendum law, all concerned will be arrested, Gen Prawit quoted the prime minister as saying.

Also Monday, Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan shrugged off the UDD's complaints, saying the UDD's move will have no effect on the referendum.

Thailand's referendum rules are in line with international standards, he said.

However, Mr Meechai warned UDD leaders not to act in a way that will obstruct the campaign to explain the draft charter, otherwise they will violate the Referendum Act and face legal action.

He also warned some newspapers to exercise caution in disseminating information about the draft charter. He said some newspapers were found to have spread false and distorted information in violation of the referendum law.


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