Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, who also serves as vice rector of the university, made the proposal to the national reform committee for the justice system in a bid to ease the plight of the impoverished, who are seen as being unfairly treated vis-a-vis their more affluent peers.
“Using detention in lieu of fine payment is part of the problem of inequality,” he said.
“Automatically detaining the impoverished in this way not only goes against Section 30/1 of the Penal Code, which allows defendants to tell the court they want to do community service, but also shows how people are treated unfairly with a strong economic bias,” he added.
Having already launched a campaign to this effect called Change.org, Mr Prinya led a group of students armed with a petition featuring more than 2,300 signatures to officially propose the amendment today.
Currently, those who fail to pay their fines are put in detention, with one days detention equivalent to a B500 fine. As such, a destitute perpetrator given a B3,000 fine would have to spend six days behind bars.
Mr Prinya’s campaign seems to align with an ambitious target the regime set for itself at the end of last year when Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told the media in December that new measures would be introduced to eradicate “extreme poverty” by the end of 2018.
Mr Prinya said Thai judges rarely dish out community service, while many people barely know their rights, including the right to make such a request.
One of the by-products of this is the massive overcrowding at many Thai jails, he added.
Department of Corrections director-general Naras Savestanan said he supported the idea.
“The fines can get very big, so if the wrongdoer can’t pay he can be locked up for over 100 days,” he said, adding it was unrealistic to expect a fisherman from Cambodia to pay a B1-million fine if busted for working here illegally.
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