28 red shirts, including a 15-year-old boy, have been arrested and prosecuted for burning down Mukdahan provincial hall on 19 May. 24 have been denied bail and are being held on remand at the provincial prison.
The People’s Centre for Information on the April – May 2010 Crackdowns (PCI) has reported the arrest and prosecution of 28 people, including one woman and a 15-year-old boy, for burning down the provincial hall during the unrest on 19 May.
16 of them were arrested on the day of the incident in and around the provincial hall. Police subsequently made more arrests using photos taken at the scene as evidence. In the photos, the arrestees were found to be sitting on piles of tyres, moving tyres, or just standing there watching.
The most recent arrest on 29 May involved a scavenger named Jam Nongpreuksa who went to collect junk at the provincial hall on that day because there were many people gathering there to protest, and who was seen in the photos.
On that day, the security forces, which comprised local police, soldiers from Sakon Nakhon, border patrol police and civilian defence volunteers, dispersed the protesters by kicking or hitting them with batons, without warning. Almost all of the arrestees were injured.
The arrestees were packed into a single police detention vehicle parked in front of the provincial hall on 19 May, before another vehicle was brought in to ease the crowding on 20 May. They were allowed to go to toilet only for the purpose of excretion; urination was done inside the vehicles.
After spending two nights inside the vehicles, they were taken to prison on 21 May. The injured had not received any medical attention.
According to the PCI, 24 have been remanded at the provincial prison. The 15-year-old boy was sent for detention at the Juvenile Observation and Protection Centre in Nakhon Phanom, before being released on bail on 2 Aug. Another three suspects have been released, because according to police they reported in before arrest warrants were issued.
All suspects have denied all charges. Some have admitted that they joined the protest, but were not involved with the arson. Some said that they were bystanders watching the fire. Some were tricycle drivers who were hired to pile tyres around the hall, and claimed to have been unaware of the subsequent burning. Some claimed to have tried to dissuade protesters from burning the tyres, while some claimed to have climbed the front of the hall to retrieve the picture of the King during the burning.
Only one suspect has confessed to have sold tyres to the protesters, on the understanding that they would use the tyres only for making threats.
So far, police have yet to find the real arsonists, the PCI says.
The suspects are found to be farmers, tricycle drivers, wage earners, vendors, company employees, a scavenger, grocery shop owners and a tyre shop owner. Most of them are residents in the town of Mukdahan, with 6 living in Don Tan district.
All of them have been repeatedly denied bail, including one suspect who has requested bail with a 500,000 baht guarantee, and others who have chronic diseases such as hepatitis, kidney problems, intestinal infections, or mental problems which require medical care.
Even after the Emergency Decree was lifted for the province on 29 May, bail requests have still been denied.
On 11 Aug, the 84-day remand period for those who were arrested on 19 May expired. However, to the disappointment of their families who had hoped for their temporary release, the police forwarded the cases to the prosecutor, who decided to prosecute them in court.
The family members have questioned these quick decisions as there has been little investigation of defence witnesses.
See related story: 26 red shirts to face arson trial in Udon Thani