Thai police interrogate girls, 8, for tearing voters lists

Image caption,
Thais are due to vote on a new, military-drafted constitution on 7 August

Thai police have summoned two eight-year old girls for questioning after they tore voters lists prepared for the upcoming constitutional referendum.

The girls said they had torn the papers for fun while playing with them.

Police initially said they would be charged with "destroying assets", but later said they would not be charged.

Thailand's military government has outlawed any attempt to campaign against its controversial draft constitution, to be voted on in August.

Critics say the draft constitution, if approved, would significantly weaken the power of any future elected government.

Pretty and pink

The incident began on 18 July at a school in central Kamphaeng Phet province, which was being prepared as a polling station ahead of the referendum.

The girls tore some of the voters lists hung out at the school ahead of the poll, and were subsequently taken to a local police station for questioning, in the presence of child welfare staff and lawyers.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The military have held rallies urging the public to vote in the referendum
Image caption,
Voters lists at a Thai polling station ahead of the referendum

The girls told officers that they had played with the lists because they were pink and a pretty colour.

However, police initially said they needed to follow procedure and charge the girls, as damage to state assets had occurred, sparking anger on Thai social media and amongst rights groups.

On Friday, an officer at Kamphaeng Phet police station told BBC Thai that the two girls would not be charged because they had not intended to destroy the papers for anything other than for fun, and because they were under 10 years old - the minimum age at which a person can be held legally responsible under Thai law.

The girls were now back with their parents, and the police were working to conclude the case, he said.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
An activist holds a placard reading "7 Reasons To Not Accept Constitution"

Although the girls were not charged in this case, correspondents say Thailand's constitutional referendum is a sensitive subject, with over 100 people detained for expressing their opposition to the constitution.

People have been arrested for carrying booklets providing information on the constitution, or criticising the draft constitution on Facebook.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Thai Election Commission mascot on tour: five million copies of the draft constitution were distributed

There have also been reports of several incidents of voters lists being meddled with.

The Bangkok Post reported that lists had been tampered with at 10 polling stations in the run up to the referendum.

In one case a petrol station manager admitted stealing a list because he wanted to find new clients, the Post said.