Court dismisses referendum charges against activists, reporter
THE PROVINCIAL Court of Ratchaburi yesterday dismissed a case against four student activists and a reporter accused of violating the law during the 2016 constitutional-draft referendum.
But the court ordered the five defendants to be fined for refusing to cooperate with police over fingerprinting following their arrests.
Prachatai news-website reporter Thaweesak Kerdphoka and students Pakorn Areekul, Anan Loket, Anucha Rungmorakot and Panuwat Songsawatchai, the last four of whom are associated with the anti-regime New Democracy Movement, were arrested in Ratchaburi’s Ban Pong district in July 2016.
They were accused of distributing materials to persuade voters, which was a violation under the law governing the referendum over the draft constitution. A number of leaflets, stickers and other anti-referendum materials allegedly belonging to the four student activists were found in the reporter’s car.
The activists were getting a lift from the reporter in a trip from Bangkok to Ratchaburi.
The court found that the public prosecutors’ witnesses did not see the defendants actually distribute the materials to anyone.
However, the court ruled that the defendants were guilty of failing to cooperate with police who were taking their fingerprints following their arrests. They were fined at Bt1,000 each, which the court the reduced by half for the four students to Bt500 each due to their testimony in admitting to the charge.
Many supporters of the red-shirt movement gathered at the Ratchaburi Provincial Court yesterday to offer moral support to the defendants. They also handed them flowers.
Thaweesak said yesterday that he felt his freedom had been compromised by police who had refused to consider his explanation that he was a reporter and had nothing to do with the students’ activities.
Thaweesak said he would consult with his lawyer to determine if he should take legal action against the officials involved in the case.
Student activist Pakorn yesterday said the four activists were also considering whether to take legal action against the officials involved. He added that their records have been tainted by the criminal charges against them and this could severely affect their future careers.