2 of 5 ‘Men in Black’ sentenced to 10 years imprisonment

A criminal court has sentenced two of five ‘men in black’ suspects accused of taking part in the deadly political violence on 10 April 2010 to 10 years imprisonment while dismissing charges against the rest.

On 31 January 2017, the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Rd., Bangkok, sentenced Kittisak Soomsri, 47, and Preecha Yooyen, 26, to 10 years imprisonment. 

The two are among five suspects indicted for possession of unauthorized and illegal weapons of war, such as M79 grenade launchers, M16 rifles, HK33 rifles and explosive devices during the violent military crackdown against red-shirt protesters on 10 April 2010.

The court cited the testimony of a soldier who said that he saw Kittisak in a white van driving around the red-shirt demonstration on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on 10 April 2010. The soldier added that the suspect had an M16 rifle in his hands.

Another prosecution witness, a driver who is Kittisak’s colleague, supported the testimony of the soldier.

The judges dismissed Kittisak’s claim that he only confessed to interrogators because he was threatened by police officers and that he only stayed outside the main red-shirt demonstration group before travelling back to Lampang Province.

In Preecha’s case, the judges cited as prime evidence photos claimed to be of Preecha wearing a stocking cap taken by police officers in plainclothes and the fact that Preecha admitted that he was a red-shirt guard.

The court dismissed the defendant’s claim that he was not at the demonstration site on 10 April 2010, but was working in Chaengwattana District of Bangkok.

The court dismissed charges against three other suspects, Ronnarit Suricha, 35, Chamnan Pakeechai, 47, and Punika Chusri, 41, citing weak evidence.

The court, however, did not release the three, but permitted the authorities to keep them in detention while the prosecution appeals.  

Winyat Chatmontree, a lawyer from Free Thai Legal Aid (FTLA) representing the five, said that he will submit an appeal for the Kittisak and Preecha.  

During a press conference in September 2014, a few days after their arrests, the five confessed that they were the ‘men in black’. However, roughly a month later, they recanted their confessions and alleged that they were tortured to confess while under military detention.

Winyat told Prachatai that Kittisak faced the most severe treatment. He was allegedly beaten, suffocated and threatened. The other three men, Preecha, Ronnarit, and Chamnan, were allegedly suffocated with plastic bags and threatened. The only female suspect, Punika, faced no ill-treatment.

The four male 'Men in Black' suspects with other detainees in Bangkok Remand Prison (file photo)