Court in Thailand acquits protesters who occupied Bangkok airports in 2008

Legal Insight 2024/01/17 16:07   Bookmark and Share
A court in Thailand on Wednesday acquitted more than two dozen protesters who had occupied Bangkok’s two airports in 2008 of charges of rebellion and terrorism related to their demonstration, which at the time disrupted travel in and out of the country for more than a week.

The Bangkok Criminal Court declared that the members of the People’ Alliance for Democracy had neither caused destruction at the airports nor hurt anyone. However, 13 of the 28 defendants were slapped with a 20,000 baht ($560) fine each for violating an emergency decree that had banned public gatherings.

The protesters — popularly known as Yellow Shirts for the color that shows loyalty to the Thai monarchy — had occupied the airports for about 10 days, demanding the resignation of the government, which was loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They had earlier also occupied Thaksin’s office compound for three months and blocked access to Parliament.

Thaksin was ousted by a 2006 military coup that followed large Yellow Shirt protests accusing him of corruption and disrespect to the monarchy. In 2008, Yellow Shirts stormed Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports, shutting down operations and defying an injunction calling for them to leave. The siege ended only after a court ruling forced pro-Thaksin Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat out of office.

Several dozen protesters involved in the demonstrations were divided into two groups of defendants and indicted in 2013. The verdict for the second group is to be delivered in March.

In 2011, the Civil Court ordered the leaders of the group to pay 522 million baht ($14.7 million) in damages to the state airport authority. They were declared bankrupt and had their assets seized last year to pay the sum.

Thaksin came back to Thailand last year to serve an eight-year prison term on several criminal convictions and was right away moved from prison to a state hospital because of reported ill-health. He has remained at the hospital since but his sentence was later reduced to one year, allowing for the possibility he could soon be released on parole.

His return to Thailand came as the Pheu Thai party — the latest incarnation of the party Thaksin led to power in 2001 — won a parliamentary vote to form a new government despite finishing second in elections.
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