Girls rip voters' lists, not govt opponents - police

Girls rip voters' lists, not govt opponents - police

A woman checks names of eligible voters for the Aug 7 referendum put up by the Bung Kum district in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo by Weerawong Wongpreedee)
A woman checks names of eligible voters for the Aug 7 referendum put up by the Bung Kum district in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo by Weerawong Wongpreedee)

After the junta’s much-publicised blame on its opponents for ripping a copy of eligible referendum voters' lists in a northern province over the weekend, police have caught the culprits -- two eight-year-old girls who played in the area.

On Saturday, the voters’ lists on a notice board at a referendum polling unit inside Wachirasan Sueksa School in tambon Salokbat of Khanu Woralaksaburi district, Kamphaeng Phet, were pulled down and destroyed by unidentified person. The government quickly pointed its finger to "vote no" campaigners for the Aug 7 referendum on the draft constitution.  

But Kamphaeng Phet police chief Damrong Petchpong on Tuesday said an investigation concluded that two eight-year-old girls who were running around at the polling unit had pulled down the lists from the board and ripped them into pieces without knowing they were an official property. 

Although the girls committed an offence under the referendum law, they have not reached an age of criminal responsibility so they would not punished, Pol Maj Gen Damrong said. 

Thai law sets the age of criminal responsibility at 10, but divides youthful offenders into several age groups.

Authorities had planned to charge the offenders with breaking two sections of the referendum law. Section 57 on obstructing the operations of election offcials carries a jail term up to one year or a fine not more than 20,000 baht, or both. Section 61(1) on deliberately creating unrest carries a jail term up to 10 years and a fine not more than 200,000 baht, plus the possibility of having the voting right suspended for not more than five years.

On Saturday, the Interior Ministry instructed all provincial election committees to file a complaint with police to bring the offender to justice should such an incident occur in their jurisdictions. It also ordered kamnans (sub-district chief) and village chiefs to monitor “strangers or ill-intentioned people” at the venues where voters’ lists were put up, as well as assigning guards to watch the areas. 

The instruction was part of an urgent order warning all provincial governors to deal with the dissemination of false information concerning the draft charter and the referendum in the social media.

NCPO spokesman Piyapong Klinpan on Monday described the Saturday’s incident in Kamphaeng Phet  as “an act against the government” because authorities were inviting people to cast their votes in the Aug 7 charter referendum.

"It is believed that it was an act of those with different stances from the government's," Col Piyapong had said.

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