Isaan man given suspended jail term for campaigning against junta’s constitution

A provincial court has handed a four-month suspended jail term to a man who attempted to dissuade people from voting in the referendum on the junta-sponsored constitution.

On 7 November 2017, Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Court sentenced Wichan Phuwihan, 49, to six months in prison and a 30,000 baht fine, according to  iLaw.

He was charged with violating the controversial Article 61 of the Referendum Act for shouting to passers-by at a market on 26 July 2016, telling them not to turn up for the public referendum on the 2017 Constitution.

When arrested, he told police that he was a key member of a political group called the ‘People’s Peaceful Revolution’ and that he disagreed with the draft constitution referendum.

As the accused was cooperative during the trial, the court reduced the sentence by one third and suspended the jail term for two years.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 212 people accused of breaching the Referendum Act, which banned criticism of the draft constitution before the referendum on 7 August 2016.

According to the Academics Network for Civil Rights (ANCR), the authorities used the Referendum Act as a tool to clamp down on critics of the constitution.

Under Article 61 of the Referendum Act, anyone who published or distributed content about the draft constitution which deviated from the facts, contained rude and violent language, or threateningly discouraged voters from participating in the referendum, could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 200,000 baht and loss of electoral rights for five years.

Wichan Phuwihan (Photo from iLaw)