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Shutdown Bangkok marcher sentenced to jail

Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham, founder of Top News television channel and a former member of the People's Democratic Reform Committee. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham, founder of Top News television channel and a former member of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham, founder of Top News television channel, was on Wednesday sentenced by the Appeal Court to eight months imprisonment without suspension for disrupting advance voting for the Feb 2, 2014 general election.

Mr Sonthiyan, 59, was one of four defendants in a case filed in the Criminal Court by the prosecution for their involvement in street protests led by Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government, from Nov 23, 2013 to May 1, 2014.

They marched under the slogan “Shutdown Bangkok”.

The three other defendants were Sakolthee Pattiyakul, 44, former Bangkok MP, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, 70, former rector of the National Institute of Development Administration, and Seri Wongmontha, 72, an academic of mass communications and marketing and former Thammasat University lecturer.

They were charged with instigating unrest, illegal assembly and trespassing on government installations in violation of the Criminal Code and obstructing advance voting at a polling booth on Jan 26, ahead of the Feb 2, 2014 general election.

The general election was nullified by the Constitutional Court the following month because voting could not be held across the country the same day due to disruptions by protesters.

On July 25, 2019, the Criminal Court acquitted all four of them, citing insufficient evidence.

The prosecution took the case to the Appeal Court.

The Appeal Court on Wednesday found Mr Sonthiyan guilty of violating the 2007 law on the election of MPs and senators by obstructing advance voting at a polling unit at Sukhothai School in Dusit district on Jan 26, 2014.

The court sentenced Mr Sonthiyan to one year in prison and stripped him of election rights for five years. The sentence was commuted by one-third to eight months, without suspension, because his testimony was judged useful.

The court upheld the acquittal of the three other defendants.

Mr Sonthiyan said he would take the case to the Supreme Court, and applied for release on bail.

The court later approved unconditional bail for Mr Sonthiyan after lawyer Puangthip Boonsanong posted 600,000 baht in cash as surety.

Mr Suthep and some former PDRC core members, including former Democrat Party deputy leader Thavorn Senniam, were at the court in a show of support for the four defendants.

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