Lawyer for the five men sentenced ask that they be handed down suspended sentences at Friday’s hearing but the Supreme Court found the nature of the charges too serious. Two years earlier, the Appeals Court had handed down reduced sentences to the Redshirt leaders because of the cooperation shown by the defendants. With the proceedings concluded, the defendants were taken immediately to Bangkok Remand Prison.
The Thai Supreme Court on Friday jailed five of seven Redshirt defendants on charges linked to a day of riot and disorder outside the residence of the then Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda on July 22nd, 2007. The riot followed a march to the statesman’s home of a stirred-up crowd demanding his resignation. The Redshirts had accused him of being linked with the 2006 coup which ousted former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
With the decision, the Thai Supreme Court finally disposed of the case that that has been running for over a decade. It upheld an Appeal’s Court ruling in 2018 and sentenced five of the seven Redshirt defendants to 2 years and eight months in prison.
The five sentenced to prison today where former minister and Khon Kaen MP, Natthawut Saikua, Nopparut Worachitwutthikul, Veerakarn Musikapong, Wiputhalaeng Pattanapoom and Weng Tochirakarn.
Two defendants had charges dismissed
Two defendants in the case were free to leave the court after charges against them were dismissed. These were Weerasak Hemathulin and Wanchai Naputtha.
The seven defendants had been released on bail two years ago on a personal surety of ฿500,000 by the lower court.
Today’s hearing had been deferred a number of times due to illness, logistical issues and more recently, the coronavirus lockdown.
All chargers in connection with rioting and a disturbance which occurred at the end of July 2007
All the defendants had earlier changed course and admitted their roles in the political disturbance and riot situation that occurred at the end of July 2007 outside the home of former Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda who died last year.
Tempers were raised following the 2006 military coup against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
At the time, tempers were charged following the 2006 military coup, a year earlier, that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from power.
All those involved were part of the Redshirt movement known also as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship.
Redshirt leader says defendants respect the decision handed down by the court on Friday
Today, Jatuporn Prompan, another one of the key leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, who himself was jailed in 2017 for one year on defamation charges, stressed that the defendants in the case respect the decision of the court.
‘I once said to them that on our way of fighting, it’s either death or imprisonment,’ the Redshirt activist said. ‘Our brothers humbly accepted the court’s ruling, while I and others are waiting for our case to be tried. Over the past decade, we took turns getting in and out of the prison.’
Mr Jatuporn is also facing similar charges in relation to the 2007 incident.
Key UDD leader sported Liverpool FC shirt to court and then on to prison the day after title win
At today’s hearing, Mr Natthawut Saikua sported a Liverpool Football Club jersey on the day after the British premier league side won their first premiership and 19th national title after a 30-year wait.
The UK club is synonymous with its red football jerseys and was once a takeover target of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra before he bought and later sold Manchester City who yesterday lost the title after being defeated by leading London based side, Chelsea.
Mr Natthawut is a former MP for Khon Kaen and served also as an MP for the People’s Power Party as spokesman at the Prime Minister’s office in the short-lived government of Somchai Wongsawat from October to December 2008.
He later served as deputy Agriculture Minister and Commerce Minister in the government of Yingluck Shinawatra from 2012 to 2014.
He is the current Secretary-General of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship.
March progressed from Sanum Luang on Sunday, July 22nd 2007 and ended in chaos and violence
Police and reporters gave evidence against the defendants in relation to the riot in 2007.
Fighting and serious disturbances took place outside the residence of the senior and respected privy councillor when the group led a march which turned violent.
The purpose of the protest was to request that General Prem step down as a key royal functionary.
The movement had been broadcasting and communicating with Redshirt followers in the period leading up to the affray.
On the day of the march, a Sunday, it was organised to depart from Sanum Luang and was led by the defendants in today’s case.
It was reported that up to 200 police officers and 30 civilians were injured in the fracas that later ensued until peace and order were reimposed.
The scene was one of violence and chaos.
Charged with collusion to defy authorities with the use of violence and weapons 13 years ago
The defendants were charged with the use of force and weapons as well as collusion to defy authorities and lawful order in the area surrounding the elder statesman’s home.
Initially sentenced to four years and eight months, the sentences were later reduced by the Court of Appeal following the cooperation shown by the defendants.
Lawyers asked for a suspended sentence
In court on Friday, lawyers for the defendants argued for a lighter sentence and a suspended one given their assistance.
However, the Supreme Court took the view that the incident was a serious one of public unrest with national ramifications.
The five defendants jailed were taken away to Bangkok Remand Prison to begin their sentences.
At the court hearing were many UDD followers and activists to show their support.
Former UDD leader hopes they will be treated well
Tida Tawornset, a longtime political activist in Thailand and former Chairwoman of the movement, said that she hoped the five prisoners would be treated fairly while incarcerated and perhaps allowed the opportunity to do social work.
‘The case is already over,’ Ms Tida pointed out. ‘I hope they will be able to do social work in prison and be treated appropriately. Even though they share different thoughts, they are not criminals.’