BANGKOK – Thailand’s Criminal Court has postponed the trial of a suspected gunman affiliated with the anti-government protest movement that preceded the 22 May 2014 coup.
Yesterday, public prosecutors asked the court to postpone the trial for Wiwat Yordprasit, who is accused of being the infamous “popcorn gunman” who shot at pro-government protesters in northern Bangkok on the eve of the 2 February 2014 general election.
The nickname was inspired by the yellow and green popcorn bag the gunman was seen using to collect bullet cases while he fired at Redshirt demonstrators.
The "popcorn gunman" in Lak Si district on 1 Feb 2014.
The prosecutors said they needed more time to investigate the death of Arkaew Saelew, one of four people allegedly hit by Wiwat’s bullets. Arkaew, 71, was paralyzed by the bullet and died in a hospital in September 2014.
The court agreed to postpone the trial from 19 January to 30 March, but urged prosecutors to "speed up" their investigation, noting that Wiwat has been held in Bangkok Remand Prison since he was arrested in March 2014.
Wiwat is facing charges of attempted murder, possessing firearms and ammunition without a permit, carrying firearms and ammunition into a residential area without due cause, and carrying firearms and ammunition in an area under the Internal Security Act.
Police say Wiwat belonged a "security guard unit" of the People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), which organized six months of street protests against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from November 2013 to May 2014.
Wiwat initially confessed to the charges at a police conference in March 2014, but later retracted the confession through his lawyer, who told reporters that Wiwat was tortured into making a false statement by police.
Rescue workers rush to the aid of Arkaew Saelew, who was allegedly shot by the popcorn gunman and later died in a hospital. 1 Feb 2014.
The clashes in which Wiwat allegedly participated followed the PCAD’s attempt to besiege Lak Si District Office and prevent officials from organizing the 2 February snap election. The protesters demanded that an unelected “People’s Council” implement national reforms before an election could take place.
On the afternoon of 1 February, pro-government protesters tried to drive PCAD demonstrators away from Lak Si District Office. A gunfight between the two sides soon erupted, but pro-government Redshirt protesters were eventually outgunned by PCAD guards and withdrew from the area.
The 2 February election was later annulled by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that voting did not take place on the same day across the Kingdom, a result of the PCAD's efforts to block polling stations in 5 southern provinces and some districts of Bangkok.
Before the government could reschedule a new election, the military seized power on 22 May 2014. The military junta, led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has promised that a new poll will be held in 2016, if the "national reform" effort has been completed and the political climate is deemed stable.