The provincial court in Ubon Ratchathani has given 9 red shirts suspended jail terms for their alleged involvement in the 19 May 2010 unrest, after they pleaded guilty. Another group of 21 red shirts will hear the court’s rulings in early September.
On 9 June, the court sentenced 9 red shirts to a total of 7 years and 6 months in jail and a fine of 30,000 baht each for 5 offences: 6 months’ imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 baht for causing unrest and violating the Emergency Decree, 2 years and 6,000 baht for arson and blocking traffic, one year and 4,000 baht for resisting the authorities and carrying weapons, 2 years and 4,000 baht for damaging public assets, and 2 years and 6,000 baht for attacking the authorities.
9 red shirts
The court, however, reduced the sentences by half as the defendants had pleaded guilty, and suspended the jail terms for 4 years as, it said, they had been cooperative toward the court and had never committed an offence. They have to report to the Office of Probation every 4 months for two years, and perform public services for 36 hours.
8 of the defendants did not have to pay the commuted fine of 15,000 baht as they had been on remand for 6 months and the court multiplied the number of days of their detention by 200 baht, amounting to 36,000 baht. Only Phaiboon Duangsi had to pay an outstanding fine of 2,600 baht.
The court prohibited all defendants from participating in illegal assemblies.
The court ordered the return to the owners of vehicles which had been seized by police.
The defendants showed signs of relief after hearing the ruling.
Rawi Damri, one of the defendants, said that despite the suspended sentences they were luckier than another 21 red shirts who had been detained without bail at the provincial prison. They, at least, can now make a living and deal with their debts which they had incurred during their detention, he said.
‘If the government hopes to use the law to control the people’s political opinions, don’t ever think that we will give in. I will continue to fight for justice. We’ve seen the discriminatory practice of the authorities. They’ve turned a blind eye to certain groups of people, but have lodged exaggerated charges against others. We’ll keep on expressing our political opinions within the scope of law, at least to show the powers that be that we feel upset,’ he said.
Rawi, a resident of Bung Wai Subdistrict, Warin Chamrap District, Ubon Ratchathani, said that on 19 May 2010 he went to town to buy spare parts for his walk-behind tractor, and came across the red shirts’ gathering in front of the provincial hall. He joined them to protest against the government which had ordered the killings in Bangkok. Within an hour, he was shot and wounded twice in the right leg. He was sent to hospital by other red shirts. He was hospitalized for 5 days and was arrested.
Sininat Chomphusaphet, another defendant from Kaeng Dom Subdistrict, Sawang Wirawong District, said that she joined the protest that day because she supported the red shirt cause. She carried a placard with the message ‘Stop killing the people’ in front of the provincial hall. She was shot in the leg when she was walking with other protesters to the lawn in front of the hall.
‘I kept walking close to the police because I thought that I would not get shot if I stayed close. But I didn’t even reach the front of the hall before I heard a gunshot from up the hall. My right leg felt numb, and I fell. Someone came to ask what happened to me. I didn’t know. I looked at my leg and saw a hole in the pants. That’s how I came to know that I’d been shot. I was sent to hospital. That evening, nurses told me that the provincial hall had been torched. There were red-shirt nurses who gave me moral support, and also yellow-shirt nurses who ridiculed me,’ she said.
She was discharged from hospital on the following day. On 22 May 2010, two plainclothes policemen came to her house and took her to the police station. The interrogation took place from 1 to 6 pm, and all the time she had to lie down because of her injuries. Then she was sent to the provincial prison where she was detained for 6 months before being granted bail on 12 Nov 2010. During her detention, her three children, aged 7, 9 and 11, were taken care of by her husband’s 83-year-old mother.
‘The more we are hurt, the less scared we are. The more we are suppressed, the more we grow. To persecute and incarcerate us is like adding fuel to the fire. My youngest son gets angry when he sees Abhisit on TV, and would run to kick the TV set and curse him over my arrest. That was spontaneous. He’s never been taught to do that,’ she said.
The 9 defendants include Rawi Damri, Thiwa Prapha, Jirasak Phromnophat, Sininat Chomphusaphet, Sahachon Sosai, Benchawan Wanwong, Phaiboon Duangsi, Phochai Thongchum and Photcharamon Phetngam.
The court will rule on another case which involves 21 red shirts on 5 September 2011.
Their lawyer Watthana Chanthasin said that he would petition the court for the temporary release of Khamphloy Nami who was hospitalized for hemiplegia and Thanusin Thanuthong who, according to the court testimony of the Deputy Provincial Police Commander, had been arrested under a mistaken identity. He had tried twice to request bail for the 21 defendants, but had failed.