BANGKOK (AP) — Election officials in northern Thailand think they can buy off a gang of monkey vandals with fresh fruit and vegetables, after about 100 macaques tore up voter lists publicly posted ahead of next month's referendum on a proposed constitution.
District official Surachai Maneeprakorn said a large population of the monkeys lives behind the Buddhist temple where the polling station they raided Sunday is set up in an open hall.
"For some reason they were being very naughty and started tearing up the lists," he said.
Local officials brought the animals food Monday, and hope that if that does not deter them, then newly installed sliding glass doors protecting the reposted lists might, said Phichit district election official Prayoon Jakkraphatcharakul.
"The glass cases should deter the monkeys, but if they're smart enough to find a way to open the glass door, that will be problematic," said Prayoon. "There were only a couple of lists left on the board by the time the police got there. Some of the monkeys were still even holding onto the papers."
Prayoon speculated that the pink color of the voter lists for the Aug. 7 referendum might have attracted the animals. He said that the temple had been a polling station for many previous national elections without voters encountering any interference from long-tailed neighbors.
Two 8-year-old girls in the northern province of Kamphaeng Phet were charged last week with obstructing the referendum process and destroying public property when they tore down voter lists because they liked the pink paper on which they were printed.
The two girls will not face any punishment due to their young age but will carry a criminal record for their offenses.
In preparation for the referendum, Thailand's military government brought in a law that prohibits rude criticism and lobbying for or against the draft constitution. Those who break it face a 10-year prison sentence. Dozens have been detained but there have been few if any convictions so far.
The junta has faced increasing criticism in the past months for intimidating those opposed to the draft constitution and for the content of the proposed charter, which some consider undemocratic, such as an appointed rather than elected Senate.