UBON RATCHATHANI — A 48-year-old Isaan man was convicted by a court Friday for urging people not to vote in last year’s junta-organized constitutional referendum.
Wichan Phuwihan was found guilty of violating a special law enacted to ban actions deemed critical of the August 2016 vote, in which the public were asked to give an up-or-down vote on the junta-sponsored charter. The draft passed by a large majority and became the new law of the land, but junta opponents accuse the regime of suppressing opposition in a vote that was neither free nor fair.
Wichan was given a suspended two-year sentence under the 2016 referendum law and fined 30,000 baht.
The activist was part of a boycott effort which called for abstaining from the referendum rather voting against the draft itself. He was arrested July 26 after he shouted at people in an Ubon Ratchathani province market not to participate.
In a summary of court verdict posted online by civil rights group iLaw, the court said Wichan’s action violated the special referendum law which prohibited any attempt to disrupt the vote.
While the defense argued Wichan was only expressing his opinion verbally and not many people heard his words, the judges ruled his actions constituted a crime all the same.
More than a year later, opponents still face prosecution and jail terms for their campaigns. Junta officials have previously ruled out granting amnesty to its critics charged under the law.
In September, another boycott campaigner was convicted of a similar offense for tearing his ballot at a voting booth. Piyarat Chongthep was given a suspended sentence of one year.