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Khon Kaen Court Upholds Jail Sentence for Mayor Who Forced Reporter to Strip

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An Appellate court in Khon Kaen Province has upheld the two-month jail sentence, without suspension, given to former municipal mayor. For detaining and humiliating a journalist who reported his engagement to a young schoolgirl.

The Appeal Court on Tuesday upheld the lower court’s sentencing of former Ban Phai municipality mayor Premsak Piayura to two months in jail without suspension.

His close assistant and co-defendant Buathong Lokhan was given the same sentence in Khon Kaen Province.

The ruling was read out in the Khon Kaen, Phon District Provincial Court on Tuesday, the Bangkok Post reported.

The two defendants and plaintiff Korsit Kongchom, a local reporter for the Daily News, were at the court for the ruling in the case, which hit media headlines and drew public attention.

On June 21 last year, the lower court found Premsak and Buathong guilty of intimidation and public indecency in forcing reporter Korsit, then 64, to strip  down to his underwear in the mayor’s office on July 26, 2016.

The court sentenced the two defendants to two months in jail without suspension. They were also released on bail pending appeal.

The Appeal Court Region 4 initially set July 22 this year to deliver its decision. As the date approached Premsak and his aide reportedly asked to change their testimony and confess to all charges,

The ruling was rescheduled for Nov 5. The Appeal Court upheld the lower court’s judgement, ruling that the defendants’ change of plea gave no benefit to the court’s consideration of the case.

Lawyers for the defence applied for bail pending appeal to the Supreme Court. Both men were later released after placing 250,000 baht each as surety.

Engaged to a 15 Year-old Girl in Khon Kaen

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The Premsak case blew up over media coverage of his suspected engagement to an underage girl in Khon Kaen.

The Daily News published a story featuring a picture of then-mayor Premsak, and a young girl with 400,000 baht in cash in front of them at the girl’s home. Then-mayor Premsak was also already a married.

The photo was taken by Mr Korsit and quickly went viral, circulating online. It featured on the front page of the daily, garnering nationwide attention.

According to the news story, the girl was a Mathayom 5 student, indicating she was a minor at the time. The photo appeared to be of an engagement ceremony, which drew harsh public comment.

Mr Korsit and four other Khon Kaen reporters went to interview Premsak in his office. Premsak then ordered the door locked behind them. He had his subordinates collect their mobile phones and cameras, and forced Mr Korsit to strip to his underwear.

The news spread rapidly, leading to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suspending Premsak from duty in August 2016, invoking Section 44 of the interim charter.

Premsak was permanently dismissed from office the following a disciplinary committee ruled against him. His dismissal was signed by Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda, in 2017.