Court dismisses murder charges against PDRC bombing suspects

The Provincial Court in the eastern province of Trat has dismissed murder charges against three suspects in a PDRC bombing case, but sentenced one suspect to five years in jail for possessing illegal weapons.    

Trat Provincial Court on Tuesday, 26 January 2016, dismissed murder charges against Watchara Krajangklang, Somsak Poonsawad, and Somsak Sunan, three suspects in the bombing case of a People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) anti-election protest in 2014.

The three were accused of carrying out an attack with explosives on the PDRC protest in Trat on 22 February 2014, which resulted in the deaths of three people, two of them children, and 39 injured.

According to Somphob Chotiwong, a defence lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the court said that that since the murder charge against the suspects is serious, the prosecution was obliged to present solid evidence and witnesses. The court, however, ruled that the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses was not substantial enough and that the circumstantial evidence, including the DNA evidence of two of the suspects, could not prove that the three were guilty of the attack.

The court added that the prosecution did not have the military officers who arrested the three testify in court. Therefore, the court gave the benefit of the doubt to the suspects, said the defence lawyer.

The three suspects, however, will remain under custody for at least 30 days. If the prosecution does not ask to appeal the verdict they will be set free.

Athough the court acquitted the three on murder charges, the court sentenced Watchara Krajangklang, one of the suspects, to five years’ imprisonment under the Arms Control Act for possessing illegal weapons, without suspending the jail term.

The attorney for the three added that the court dismissed the allegations that the suspects were tortured by military officers to confess to the alleged crimes.

TLHR reported earlier the three suspects suffered ill-treatment and torture while in custody.

Somsak Poonsawad was arrested and detained by military officers for eight days, one day longer than the period allowed under martial law which was declared a few days before the 2014 coup d’état. The military officers reportedly hooded him with a plastic bag, threatened to kill him, and beat him until he urinated in order the force him to confess to owning weapons which the officers confiscated from unknown locations and to being the perpetrator of the attack.  

The two other suspects reportedly faced similar abuse in military custody. They were allegedly beaten, detained in dark rooms, electrocuted, and made to suffocate by officers.

Somsak Sunan was also detained from 19 July-12 August 2014, many days beyond the custodial period allowed under martial law.