Tearing up ballot papers in illegal elections is not wrong
The court has acquitted a Chulalongkorn lecturer who tore up his ballot papers in the 2006 elections. It says that the elections were illegal, so the ballot papers were not considered real ballot papers, and were worth little money.
On 29 Oct, the Phra Khanong Provincial Court gave its ruling in the case of Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn who was prosecuted for tearing up his ballot papers in the general election in April 2006.
Chaiyan tore up the two ballot papers for the election of constituency MP and party-list MP at a polling station in Bangkok on 2 April 2006. The public prosecutor said that his act was intentional, and was an offence under Section 108 of the 1998 Election Act which forbids the spoiling of ballot papers and Section 358 of the Criminal Code which forbids the destruction of state assets. The prosecutor asked the Court to punish the defendant and revoke his electoral rights for 5 years.
The defendant denied the charges and testified that then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra did not dissolve the House as a result of a conflict between the government and the legislature, but to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of his family’s holdings of Shin Corp shares. So the dissolution was not in line with the principles of democracy, and Thaksin wanted to use the elections to ‘wash away his crimes’. The scheduling of the election date was also unlawful. The defendant tore up the ballot papers with the intention of opposing illegal elections, not to destroy the ballot papers per se.
In its ruling, the Court referred to the Constitutional Court ruling on the 2 April 2006 general elections. This said that the elections were not fair, not truly democratic, and were against the 1997 Constitution.
The Provincial Court ruled that the ballot papers which electoral officials gave to voters at the polling station were not considered ballot papers, but only replicas of ballot papers. Therefore, the defendant’s act did not constitute an offence under Section 108 of the Election Act.
And the fact that the defendant came to exercise his electoral rights and openly tore up only those ballot papers which were given to him, to show the public that the elections were not legitimate, without causing unrest or damage to anybody, was considered an act of exercising his right to oppose illegal elections through peaceful means. The ballot papers were an asset which the Election Commission used to commit wrongdoing in the elections and were worth little money compared to the damage which might be incurred under the rule of power acquired through unconstitutional means. The defendant, therefore, did not commit the offence of destroying assets as alleged, the Court ruled.