By Teeranai Charuvastra
KHON KAEN — Four Redshirt activists were found guilty today for torching Khon Kaen’s city hall during 2010’s political unrest.
The four defendants received sentences ranging from three to 13 years in jail for their roles in the arson attack, which took place on May 19, 2010, the day a military crackdown in Bangkok brought an end to weeks of protest and unrest that claimed more than 90 lives.
Adisai Wibulsek, Jirattrakul Soomha, Suthat Singhabuakao and Udom Kammool were among the Redshirt demonstrators the prosecutor successfully argued broke into the city hall compound and set the building on fire on that day.
Prior to the arson, the demonstrators had been rallying in and around the building in solidarity with a larger Redshirt protest in Bangkok, where thousands of Redshirts had occupied parts of the capital city, from Lumpini Park to the luxury malls around Ratchaprasong intersection, for two months to demand a fresh election from then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Redshirt demonstrators at Khon Kaen city hall prior to the arson on May 19, 2010.
When the Khon Kaen demonstrators heard the military had mounted an assault on the Redshirt encampment in Bangkok, some of them threw petrol bombs and other objects into the city hall building, damaging but not destroying it. The four defendants were among them, the prosecutor said.
The court ruled today the evidence implicating the four defendants was sufficient for a guilty verdict.
“Photographs and videos taken by reporters from many agencies, and by security officers … clearly showed the four defendants committing the act,” read an excerpt from the verdict.
Adisai and Jirattrakul were subsequently sentenced to 13 years in prison, while Suthat and Udom received three years. The court declined to suspend their sentences, citing their “brazen disregard of the law.”
Boonyong Kaewfainok, the lawyer representing the four men, said his clients will appeal the verdict.
The four defendants’ requests for bail release were denied by the court.
More than 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed during the 2010 protests, which started in March and came to an end when the military stormed the protesters’ camps on May 19.
After Redshirt leaders called off the protests and surrendered to police, some Redshirts remained on the streets, and several dozen arson attacks were reported in the aftermath. Some municipal buildings in other regions were also burned down by local groups of Redshirts angered by the crackdown in Bangkok.
In response to the unrest, the Abhisit government, which had declared a State of Emergency in April, imposed a curfew over Bangkok and 23 other provinces. The situation was brought under control on May 20.
Correction: The original version of this article stated that the Abhisit government declared a State of Emergency on May 19, 2010. In fact, the State of Emergency had been in place since April 7.
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