Thailand’s “justice” system continues to work on political cases that the military junta has pursued.
The Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced two ‘men in black’ to 10 years in jail for having in possession and carrying weapons during the 2010 red-shirt political violence while acquitting three others due to lack of evidence.”
The five were arrested and paraded by the police a couple of months after the 2014 coup. The police dressed the detainees in a kind of MiB uniform of black clothing, red armbands and ribbons, forcing them to wear balaclavas. It then made the detainees “re-enact” alleged “crimes,” including taking them to the streets and having them pose with grenade launchers and assault weapons. (Our earlier posts are here, here and here.)
The five defendants are “Kittisak Soomsri, Chamnan Phakeechai, both 49, and a 43-year-old woman, Punika Chusri. The other two are Preecha Yuyen, 28,… and Ronnarit Suricha, 37…”.
The prosecution alleged that:
the five defendants and other suspects who are still at large or died carried weapons, ammunition and explosive devices such as M79 grenade launchers, M16 and HK33 assault rifles at Khok Wua intersection and on Tanao Road and Prachathipatai Road in Bangkok on April 10, 2010 when security forces clashed with the red-shirt protesters at the intersection. Five soldiers and 21 civilians died, including a Reuters journalist.
In the court, Kittisak and Preecha were convicted on charges of being armed without licenses. Earlier terrorism charges were dropped. The two received sentences of eight years in jail for having weapons and explosives and two years for carrying firearms in public places without permission.
The court heard witnesses and considered evidence that “Kittisak, the first defendant, played a role in supplying weapons to the protest site held by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on April 10 .”
His sister told the court she saw Kittisak with a black bag with a rifle barrel coming out of the top “in a room.” He then took the bag and left for the red shirt protest. Another witness was a soldier who stated that he saw “a rifle inside the slowly moving van when Kittisak opened its door near Democracy Monument.” Another report has the soldier saying Kittisak had the rifle in his arms.
Kittisak claimed “he was tortured by authorities to confess but the court found his arguments groundless.”
As for Preecha, the court heard testimony from two plainclothes police officers. They said they:
saw a group of black-clad men armed with AK assault rifles and wearing balaclavas walked into the rally area. The red-shirt security guards asked to see their ID cards but the men said they did not bring any with them. The policemen then removed balaclava from one of the men in black and seized his gun. They later identified Preecha as him.
The officers were about to remove balaclava from another man when an explosion went off and all the men in black ran away. Preecha argued the photo of him in black attire and after his balaclava was removed was doctored but the court was not convinced.
Another report states that in Preecha’s case, the “judges cited as prime evidence photos claimed to be of Preecha wearing a stocking cap taken by police officers in plainclothes and the fact that Preecha admitted that he was a red-shirt guard.”
That all seems like pretty flimsy evidence, but these are Thai courts. Given that the court acquitted the others for lack of evidence, we can only guess that that evidence is virtually non-existent.
Lawyers said those convicted would also appeal. Those acquitted were detained pending the state’s appeal.
In another Bangkok Post report the Civil Court ruled that “five leaders of anti-Thaksin [anti-democrat] groups [had] to pay more than 95 million baht for damages caused by occupying the Energy Ministry’s compound during a 2014 mass protest.”
A pittance in the scheme of things and a sentence designed for political impact rather than punishment.
The defendants were Rawee Maschamadol, Thotsaphon Kaewthima, Itthabun Onwongsa, Thawatchai Phromchan and Somkiat Pongpaiboon, the latter being a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.
They led People’s Democratic Reform Committee protesters in actions that cut power to state offices and occupied state properties.
An appeal is likely.
The report adds:
In a similar case in 2015, the Appeal Court ordered 13 former co-leaders of the yellow-shirt PAD, to pay 522 million baht to Airports of Thailand after being found guilty of leading a number of demonstrators to close Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports during their protest in 2008.
Does any reader recall if any payment was made?