THE CRIMINAL Court yesterday ruled that three anti-junta activists were guilty of vandalism and handed down suspended sentences of two months in prison and fines of Bt2,000 for ripping up a ballot paper in the charter referendum last year.
The penalty was reduced from four months in prison and a Bt4,000 fine after the suspects pleaded guilty. The jail sentences were suspended for one year.
The court dismissed allegations against the three offenders of agitation, ruling their act was a form of non-violent demonstration, which is allowed by the Constitution.
The court heard that the three activists, Piyarat Chingthep, Songtham Kaewpanphruk and Jirawat Ekakaranuwat, had vandalised a ballot in the referendum in August last year. They said it was a demonstration against the process under the coup-installed regime, which they saw as illegitimate.
While Piyarat tore his ballot, the other two recorded a video of the incident.
During the referendum on August 7 last year, a number of cases of vandalising ballots occurred as voters tore their ballots in two, believing that the two questions on the ballot needed to be separated.
The activists’ case was the only deliberate act brought to court and they were the only suspects punished.
A similar case took place in an election in 2006 when a university lecturer ripped up a ballot, but a lower court dismissed the case.
The court ruled the election, which was called by the then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was unconstitutional under a “pseudo democratic” regime and the ballot cost very little compared to the damage that could be caused by the illegitimate executive power.
However, the Appeal and Supreme courts reversed the verdict and handed down a two-month prison sentence, a Bt2,000 fine and a five-year ban on political activities. The prison sentence was suspended for one year.