CHIANG MAI: Authorities are examining evidence linked to the creation of thousands of letters containing misinformation on the draft constitution uncovered in six raids in this northern province on Saturday.
The raids, carried out by 200 administrative officials, police officers and soldiers, started with a furniture company owned by the Buranupakorn family, one of the most wealthy and politically powerful clans in the North.
Officers were acting on information from post office employees, who found more than 10,000 letters about the draft charter in postboxes and asked authorities to investigate.
The letters purport to inform people about certain "weak points" in the constitution, which will be put to a public vote on Aug 7. However, authorities say the information is misleading and distorted, in violation of the referendum law. Some of the points made in the letters have previously been rebutted by the charter drafters.
The team found envelopes addressed to many people and copies of the letters.
A spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) said the military had discovered an unusually large purchase of envelopes of the same type used to mail the letters at a Chiang Mai Makro store and tracked the buyer. It found 10,000 of the envelopes at the company.
They seized the documents, as well as copying machines and printers. The owner of the company reportedly fled abroad late last night, officials said.
Shop clerks said the letters and equipment belonged to Wissarut Kananitisarn, 35, the aide to a well-known local politician who was not named.
A search at his house later found a motorcycle, a pair of shoes, a helmet and a jacket. Authorities said the vehicle and the clothes resembled those of a man observed placing the letters in postboxes all over the province.
The team later moved on to the offices of the Chiang Mai mayor and his deputy.
Officials on Friday night arrested Samart Kwanchai, 61, of Muang district as he handed out leaflets containing the same content as the letters at Pantip Plaza Chiang Mai.
After questioning him, they conducted the raids on Saturday and are now examining the evidence to establish a link to the instigators.
Members of the Buranupakorn family have been active for years in Chiang Mai and national politics, under the banner of various parties affiliated with fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The family also owns hotels in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Krabi and Phuket as well as Thai restaurants in Europe.
Boonlert Buranupakorn, the chief executive of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation and a former Chiang Mai mayor, enjoys the patronage of Yaowapa Wongsawat, Thaksin's sister and the main Pheu Thai powerbroker in the North. Mr Boonlert's late brother Pakorn was also a Thai Rak Thai and Pheu Thai MP.