Court upholds sentences for destroying referendum ballot in 2016

Court upholds sentences for destroying referendum ballot in 2016

From left, Jirawat Ekakaranuwat, Piyarat Jongthep and Songtham Kaewpanpruek outside the public prosecutors' office in Phra Khanong area of Bangkok in 2016. (File photo: Somchai Poomlard)
From left, Jirawat Ekakaranuwat, Piyarat Jongthep and Songtham Kaewpanpruek outside the public prosecutors' office in Phra Khanong area of Bangkok in 2016. (File photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the suspended four-month jail sentences and fines given to three people involved in tearing up a ballot paper during the 2016 referendum on the draft constitution, which was enacted in 2017.

The three men are Piyarat "Toto" Jongthep, a former election candidate for the since-dissolved Future Forward party, and his friends Jirawat Ekakaranuwat and Songtham Kaewpanpruek.

On Aug 7, 2016 Mr Piyarat and friends went to a polling station in Bang Na district to vote in the referendum.

After receiving his ballot paper, Mr Piyabat tore it up and shouted, "Down with dictatorship. Long live democracy", while Mr Jirawat and Mr Songtham took videos of Mr Piyarat in action.

The three were charged with destroying a state document in violation of Sections 188 and 358 of the Criminal Code and damaging a ballot and causing disturbance at a polling station in breach of Sections 59 and 60 of the Referendum Act.

On Sept 26, 2017 the court of first instance sentenced Mr Piyarat to four months in jail and a fine of 4,000 baht, reduced to two months and 2,000 baht because he confessed. The jail term was suspended for one year. The court acquitted Mr Jirawat and Mr Songtham of all charges.

The case went to the Appeal Court.

On Aug 15, 2018 the court overruled the lower court's judgement, sentencing all three each to six months in prison and a fine of 6,000 baht. Due to their useful testimony, the term was reduced to four months and the fine to 4,000 baht. The jail sentences were suspended for one year.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Appeal Court's judgement.

The ruling was read out  at Phra Khanong Court. 

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement, was also present, showing  support for the three defendants.

He said the three men had been opposed to the military coup since it occured in 2014 and viewed the charter referendum process as unfair and lacking legitimacy.


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