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Pheu Thai’s Watana risks arrest over his Yingluck FB posts

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WATANA MUANGSOOK, a key Pheu Thai Party figure, risks prosecution for instigating unrest and violating the computer crimes law with his Facebook posts regarding the junta’s actions during the trial of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Pol Colonel Chakrit Sawasdee, deputy commander of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said yesterday that the police were considering whether Watana could be deemed to have broken the law, possibly its Article 14 which prohibits posting “distorted” information on the Internet.
On Friday, police filed a complaint against Watana for breaking the penal code’s Article 116 for instigation, as the former minister had published on his Facebook page several posts blaming what he called the junta government’s legal bias against its political opponents.
His posts from July 19 to 26 criticised the new draft bill on criminal procedures against political office holders, which is widely believed to be aimed at self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He also posted about the coming verdict in Yingluck’s case regarding her alleged negligence in managing her government’s rice-pledging scheme. 
In those posts, he encouraged the public to gather and give courage to Yingluck at the court on Tuesday, when she will give her final closing statement, and on August 25, when her verdict will be read.
The accusation against Watana was made to the CSD by Special Branch police officers as the government has cited public order as a reason for people not to gather in mass at the court on those days.
Chakrit said yesterday that the CSD has not yet issued a warrant against Watana, as they still had to gather further evidence.
Despite the fact that he is likely to face charges, Watana insisted on encouraging people to provide moral support to Yingluck.
“It’s our freedom to give courage to Yingluck,” Watana said in a Facebook post yesterday. “Asking people to support her doesn’t break the law, because we won’t gather to change laws, overthrow the government, or create conflicts.”
Watana said that any gathering should be regarded as a custom – an act that is allowed and exempted under the law on public assembly.
His criticism of public figures – the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in this case – should also not be deemed as instigation, he said.
Watana, who had several records of being summoned by the NCPO, added that the junta and the police already have his contacts in hand and should be able to approach him directly should they want to summon him.
Apart from Watana, police are seeking three more people for allegedly instigating unrest in the Yingluck case. The court has been considering the issuance of arrest warrants for the three, deputy national police chief General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, an NCPO source yesterday said that its evaluations so far had not suggested the likelihood of conflict outside court. However, people have been advised to stay put rather than go to court to support Yingluck on Tuesday.
The source cited Prime Minister and NCPO head General Prayut Chan-o-cha as saying on Tuesday that arranging trucks and cars full of people to go to the court could “risk violating laws”.
Any supporters are expected to travel from metropolitan areas, given that the North and Northeastern parts of Thailand, which are Pheu Thai strongholds, have been inundated with floods over the past week.
“The court has its security system and the police will oversee outside the court’s compound,” the source said. “We won’t stop them, but we ask them to come and go and not put pressure on police and court officials.”
Measures for August 25 will be considered later, the source added.
 

Published : July 29, 2017

By : THE SUNDAY NATION