Appeal Court dismisses case against 10 activists for entering parliament in 2007

The Appeal Court dismissed charges against 10 high-profile civil society workers, including Jon Ungpakorn, a former Senator and the founder of Prachatai, and Supinya Klangnarong, currently National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commissioner (NBTC), accused of instigating chaos and trespassing on the parliament compound in a 2007 protest against the military government led by Surayud Chulanont.
 
On 12 December 2007, the ten allegedly trespassed onto the grounds of parliament during a rally against the 2007 National Legislative Assembly (NLA), appointed by the 2006 coup makers, 
 
The rally took place because the NLA was rushing to pass several bills on issues such as internal security and the privatization of universities, without public participation.   
 
 
Jon Ungpakorn (center) talks to reporters after the verdict.
 
The Court of First Instance accepted lawsuits against Jon and nine others in December 2010 after prosecutors filed charges against them for trespass, inciting people to break the law, and leading an illegal gathering of ten or more people according to Articles 362, 116/3, and 215 of the Criminal Code.
 
After 51 witnesses testified in the case, the Court of First Instance sentenced six defendants to two years in prison with a 9,000 baht fine. Another four defendants were sentenced to a year of imprisonment with a 9,000 baht fine. However, since all defendants were cooperative during the investigation process and committed the alleged crimes with good intentions, the defendants’ penalties were reduced by one third and the prison terms were suspended for two years.  
 
At around 10:45 am on Wednesday, the Appeal Court, however, dismissed charges against the ten defendants because the defendants did not gather with criminal intent to trespass on the grounds of parliament.
 
The court said none of the defendants gathered to create instability or caused damage to parliament, but committed the alleged crimes because they merely wanted to complain that the 2007 NLA should not rush to issue new laws, but should wait until an elected parliament was formed.
 
The court added that the act is not trespass because this charge can be applied only when the trespasser causes disturbance in a property. However, the defendants only wanted to state the group’s stance against the NLA and no officers asked them to leave. Moreover, no property in parliament was damaged and other functionalities of the parliament were not obstructed. The court added that the ten left peacefully after Pol Maj Gen Aswin Kwanmuang accepted the written complaint from the group.
 
After the court’s ruling, Jon stated that laws which will affect people must be passed only by elected members of parliament.   
 
The ten are: 
  • Sawit Keawwan, the leader of the workers’ union of Thai State Railway
  • Sriwichai Maingam, the leader of Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s workers’ union
  • Pichit Chaimongkol, former executive committee member of New Politics Party
  • Anirut Kaewsanit, a farmer activist
  • Amnaj Palamee, Deputy Secretary General of the State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Federation 
  • Pairoj Polpetch, a committee member of the Law Reform Commission of Thailand
  • Saree Ongsomwang, Secretary General of the Foundation for Consumers