Court throws out witness evidence against three UDD members charged with soldier’s deaths in 2010
Verdict recalls the horror of April and May 2010 in Bangkok. The charges related to the killing of 5 on-duty soldiers with the 2nd Infantry Division in the line of duty in the capital on April 10th 2010 when two military-grade M67 grenades were thrown at them. On Monday, the court found that the witness evidence in the case lacked credibility and suggested that those brought before it were more interested in benefiting from the witness protection programme than telling the truth.
The Criminal Court in Bangkok, on Monday, acquitted three members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship on a slew of charges including possession of explosives and causing the deaths of 5 soldiers in April 2010 during the ongoing protests against the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva. Two of the defendants were brought from prison to hear the verdict.
A Criminal Court’s judgement on Monday took aim at the credibility of witnesses in the case involving three United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) defendants facing charges in relation to the killing of 5 soldiers during the large demonstrations in Bangkok against the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva on April 10th 2010.
One of the soldiers was the Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the 2nd Infantry Division in Bangkok, Colonel Romklao Tuwatham, an up and coming officer who had his life cut brutally short. He was later promoted posthumously to General.
Incident led to ramped up tensions and was followed by a violent military crackdown in mid-May
The incident in 2010 led to an escalation in tension over the massive street protests in Bangkok that caused alarm in the government at the time with fears that it could conflagrate out of control and indeed more violent incidents did follow.
Shortly afterwards, in early May, it set up the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation which eventually led to a violent end to the protests when the military moved, in mid-May 2010, to suppress them.
In all, 85 people died from mid-March to mid-May 2010.
Background to the protests was a political crisis
Mr Abhisit came to power in December 2008 during a worldwide financial crisis and a political crisis in Thailand which saw the People’s Power Party dissolved by the Constitutional Court.
This was the basis for growing political discontent with his government and the emergence of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and other protest movements to challenge the establishment.
It all culminated in massive protests in Bangkok which eventually centred on the Democracy Monument area of the city near Ratchadamnoen Avenue.
Thousands of protesters established camps in the centre of the city which drew crowds ranging from 50,000 to 300,000 people whose main demand was the ouster of the government led by Mr Abhisit and a General Election.
Range of serious charges linked with soldier’s deaths
Monday’s case, on which the court issued its judgement, saw the three members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) acquitted on all charges ranging from causing the deaths of the soldiers, property damage in the area and possession of explosives to other offences under the Firearms and Ammunition Act.
The three defendants in the case were Suksek Poltue, Surachai Tewarat and Pornkamol Buachatkhao, a media host with Asia Update TV known as Kanokporn Siripannapirat.
The prosecution in the case alleged that Ms Kanokporn financed the purchase of three M67 military calibre grenades which were used in the killing of the soldiers.
Two grenades launched at soldiers on duty in front of a nearby school killing them in an explosion
It claimed that two of the grenades were thrown at the soldiers by Mr Suksek and Mr Surachai while they were on duty at the nearby Satree Withaya School. This caused the deadly explosion that took the lives of the military personnel who were there to secure the area.
On Monday, both Mr Suksek and Mr Surachai were brought to court to hear the decision from prison. Ms Pornkamol had been at liberty on bail but was also present.
Judgment gave a scathing account of the witnesses presented to the court and said they lacked credibility
The judgement questioned the veracity and basis of statements made by prosecution witnesses in the case suggesting they had embellished their stories to avail of witness protection programme benefits.
It took issue with the evidence adduced by the state witnesses that they had known the accused trio and associated with them during the ongoing protests in 2010.
It noted the parties had not exchanged telephone numbers nor did those giving evidence appear to know much about the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protest movement or appear to be inclined towards politics at all.
The court formed an opinion that the witnesses in court did not inspire credibility. On this basis, the court felt it had to dismiss their evidence and therefore, the case against the three defendants could not stand.
The judgment also raised the issue of duplication between this case and another being pursued against the defendants.
The verdict can be appealed by the prosecution within 30 days to the Court of Appeal.
About the Author
Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.