The Redshirt leader and former junior minister from 2012 to 2014 had been jailed this June for violent rioting in Bangkok during protests in 2007. His release on Friday followed the commuting of his sentence to a suspended one by the Minister of Justice the week previously.
Former junior minister in the government of Yingluck Shinawatra and Redshirt leader, Nattawut Saikuar, who was jailed this year for his part in a 2007 riot, was released early on Friday but told supporters outside Bangkok’s Remand Prison that he is not allowed speak to political matters as a condition of his release which was granted under a Royal clemency programme announced earlier in the month.
This week, the Thai justice minister granted early release to 76 prisoners in Thailand as part of a royal clemency programme announced in recent weeks and linked to the birthday of former monarch King Bhumibol the Great, whose birthday is celebrated on December 5th each year. The day is known in Thailand as Father’s Day.
The early release was confirmed by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, Witthaya Suriyawong, who said that they were authorised by Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin last Friday.
Release conditional on future behaviour
The prisoners being released have had their sentences commuted to suspended jail terms which means that their freedom is conditional on their future good behaviour.
This Friday evening saw the release of Nattawut Saikuar, a key democracy and redshirt campaigner and co-founder of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.
Mr Nattawut is a former junior minister in the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, serving from 2012 to 2014 particularly as deputy minister of commerce. He previously served as a minister at the Office of the Prime Minister in a short-lived People’s Power Party government in 2008.
Fitted with an ankle bracelet and told not to become embroiled in politics until his sentence expires
As well as being fitted with an ankle bracelet, like all other released prisoners, Mr Nattawut made it clear this weekend that he cannot become embroiled in political affairs as a key condition of his release from prison until his sentence period expires.
‘I cannot express my political views on the student protest movement because I was banned from expressing my views,’ he explained to redshirt protesters who had waited patiently to see him freed from the Bangkok Remand Prison on Friday.
Long-running case since 2007 saw Nattawut and four others jailed by the Supreme Court in June
The former minister and political leader was sent to prison in June this year in a long-running case linked with a chaotic march by redshirt protesters on the home of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda on July 22nd 2007 which sparked violence against police and anarchy on the streets.
The Supreme Court upheld an Appeal Court’s ruling and sentenced Mr Nattawut and four others to two years and eight months in prison.
Mr Prem, a former army leader, prime minister and at the time, leader of the Privy Council was one of Thailand’s leading statesmen. He passed away last year.