Activist gets suspended jail term for tearing up referendum ballot paper

A court in Bangkok has sentenced an anti-junta activist to four months in prison for tearing up his ballot paper during the referendum on the junta-sponsored 2017 Constitution, but later halved and suspended the jail term.

On 26 September 2017, Phra Khanong Provincial Court sentenced Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep, an anti-junta activist, to four months in prison and a 4,000 baht fine.

He was indicted for violating Articles 59 and 60 of the controversial Public Referendum Act and Articles 188 and 358 of the Criminal Code for tearing up his referendum ballot paper at a polling station before shouting the slogan “dictatorship shall be ruined and democracy shall triumph” on 7 August 2016.

The court, however, acquitted him of one offence under the Public Referendum Act in which he was accused of obstructing the referendum, reasoning that the action of the accused was peaceful.

As Piyarat pleaded guilty to other offences, the court halved the jail term and fine and suspended the jail term for one year. Therefore, he does not have the serve the prison term.

Two other suspects, Jirawat Aekakkaranuwat and Thongtham Kaewpanpruek, who were charged for videotaping Piyarat’s protest, were acquitted of all charges.  

Piyarat is head of the For Friends Association (FFA), which provides assistance to political prisoners and dissidents.

Under Article 59 of the Public Referendum Act, people who tear up referendum ballot papers can be imprisoned for one year and fined up to 20,000 baht.

 

Piyarat Chongthep at the polling station where he tore up his ballot paper  (Photo from Khaosod)