BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai news website said one of its journalists was detained Sunday by police in central Thailand while reporting on a group opposed to the military government. It said three activists of the group were also detained.
Prachatai said in a report on its website that journalist Taweesak Kerdpoka was arrested while reporting on the New Democracy Movement in Ratchaburi province. It said the four were detained after police searched the activists’ car and found copies of the group’s booklet.
It said the booklet provides “counter information” to the junta’s position on a referendum it plans to hold Aug. 7 on a new draft constitution that has been criticized by many as undemocratic.
Police did not immediately comment on the arrest.
Taweesak is the first journalist to be arrested under a new law that makes it illegal to criticize the referendum. The law imposes a jail term of of up to 10 years, a fine and loss of electoral rights for five years on anyone who publishes or distributes content about the draft constitution that is deemed to be deviating from the facts, contains rude and violent language, or threateningly discourages voters from participating in the referendum.
Prachatai said Taweesak, 24, was arrested even though he identified himself as a journalist. It said the four would be taken Monday to a civilian court where the police will request a custody petition.
It said Taweesak came to the police station to report on another event in which 18 activists from Ratchaburi reported themselves to the police because they had participated in a political assembly, which is deemed illegal under the junta. It said that the three New Democracy Movement activists separately came to the police station to give moral support to the 18 activists, and that their car was searched while they were about to leave.
Taweesak “was in the car because he wanted to go back to Bangkok with the group. He had gone to report on the news,” Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of the Prachatai website, said in an email to The Associated Press.
She said a lawyer for a human rights group went to the police station asking for bail “but the police refused to grant bail and said it had to be done at the court. This means they will be detained overnight at the police station.”