Thai campaigning rules: Two 8-year-olds charged

The two girls appearing before Thai police. Officers said rules required charges to be filed even though the girls will not be punished.
The two girls appearing before Thai police. Officers said rules required charges to be filed even though the girls will not be punished.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Two eight-year-old girls in Thailand have been charged for violating campaigning rules ahead of a contentious referendum next month. They had torn voter lists off a wall because they liked the pink paper the lists were printed on, the police said.

The girls were charged with obstructing the referendum process and destroying public property after tearing down the lists posted outside a school, said Mr Damrong Phetpong, police commander in the northern province of Kamphaeng Phet, yesterday.

"They confessed to tearing down the voter lists because they liked the colour pink," Mr Damrong said.

They will not face jail time as Thai law exempts anyone under the age of 10 from criminal punishment, he said, adding that police were still duty-bound to file the charges.

"Police have a duty to compile witnesses and evidence and then refer the case to a public prosecutor", who will decide whether to pursue the case, he said.

The police initially speculated that anti-junta activists were behind the torn voter lists. The junta has become increasingly jittery, clamping down on dissent ahead of the Aug 7 vote on a military-backed Constitution that it says will ensure stability in a country rocked by political turmoil for more than a decade.

The government has brought in a law banning discussion of the Constitution and lobbying, both for and against, with a 10-year prison sentence for anyone who breaks it.

The referendum will be the first big test of the public's opinion of the military government since it came to power after a May 2014 coup.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Thai campaigning rules: Two 8-year-olds charged'. Print Edition | Subscribe