With no conclusive evidence to support the prosecution's charge that the two defendants had set fire to CentralWorld, the Criminal Court ordered them to be set free.
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Red shirt supporters Saichol Phae Bua and Pinit Jannarong celebrate their acquittal after three years of imprisonment without bail. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Final two acquitted of CentralWorld arson
The Southern Bangkok Criminal Court has acquitted two men, Saichol Phae Bua and Pinit Jannarong, of charges of setting fire to the CentralWorld shopping complex in Ratchaprasong at the end of the anti-government protest in May 2010, giving them the benefit of the doubt and judging the prosecution case inconclusive.
Four people were charged over the fire. The two others were tried separately in the Central Juvenile and Family Court and were also acquitted for lack of conclusive evidence.
In Bangkok South Criminal Court on Monday, the clearly apprehensive defendants reacted with beaming smiles of relief as the judge briefed them at the end of the one-hour reading of the judgment.
The judge said they would be released from custody within a day.
Mr Saichol, a Chainat native, burst into tears and Mr Pinit, from Chaiyaphum, was also clearly overwhelmed.
Red shirt supporters and sympathisers flocked to Lak Si temporary prison for political prisoners late in the afternoon to celebrate the two men's pending freedom after nearly three years in detention without bail.
Mr Pinit's mother Noopit Jannarong, 46, told the Bangkok Post she was so glad and so thankful for all the help they had received.
“He is a kind and gentle son, not a belligerent or gung-ho type, so our family believed all along that Pinit is innocent,” said Ms Noopit, who travelled with her husband from Chaiyaphum to be near their son, arriving early Monday morning at the prison.
The court cited clause two of Section 227 of the Criminal Procedures Code on the benefit of doubt, saying prosecutors had failed to bring the policemen who arrested Mr Pinit in the CentralWorld garage on the evening of May 19, 2010 to testify in court and explain just how he was acting as an arsonist when they apprehended him.
The court also said two of CentralWorld's security and fire-fighting units failed to confirm that they saw Mr Pinit being rounded up by the police. Two other staff members at the mall said they saw him taken into custody, but could not say how Mr Pinit allegedly torched the shopping complex.
“The witnesses' testimony was inconclusive. They said some of the invading men in that early afternoon wore handkerchief-masks. There was also smoke, and the intruding men were far from the burning area,” the judgement said.
The court also said all the mall staff who were at the scene of the fire that day, and had testified, unanimously agreed they saw a group of men wearing black set the fires inside the mall. Mr Pinit wore a green t-shirt.
Mr Pinit was arrested and charged with theft. Arson was added later. Mr Saichol was arrested a month later at Sanam Luang.
A key witness, Nattapol Charoensuk, told the court he took a photo of Mr Saichol inside the mall and of a man carrying a cooking gas tank walking inside the building. But he did not follow Mr Saichol after he took their photos to see exactly what was going on.
“The photo [of the small cooking gas tank] alone is not enough to say that the defendant was igniting the fire. The witness did not provide other contextual details of how the arson occurred. Also, the tattoo on the man in the photos is not the same as the defendant's,” the court said.
The place where Mr Saichol was spotted by the witness was also far from the burning shops in the mall's Zone E. Given the lack of conclusive evidence in the prosecution case and the witness testimony, the two defendants were therefore acquitted.
Mr Saichol was sentenced to one year in prison for violating the emergency decree. The court ruled that his sincere accounts provided after his arrest and during the investigation warranted a reduction in the prison term to nine months. Mr Saichol had already been imprisoned longer than the sentence, so he was set free.
Mr Pinit, the court said, had already been sentenced for violating the emergency decree after a separate trial for a theft charge, so he could not be further punished.
acquittal – an official judgment in a court of law that someone is not guilty of the crime they were accused of การตัดสินให้พ้นโทษ
imprisonment – the punishment of being put in prison การจำคุก
bail – money that is given to a court when someone is allowed to stay out of prison until their trial. If they do not return for the trial, the court keeps the money เงินประกัน; การประกันตัว
arson – the illegal use of fire to destroy a house, building, or property; an arsonist is a person who commits arson การลอบวางเพลิง
key – very important ที่สำคัญ
Criminal Court – a court which hears criminal cases, i.e., cases where people are accused of breaking a law and where punishment involves going to jail. ศาลอาญา
charge – an official statement accusing someone of committing a crime ข้อกล่าวหา
complex – a large building with various connected rooms or a related group of buildings
benefit of the doubt – accepting that somebody has told the truth or has not done something wrong because you cannot prove that they have not
prosecution – the person or organisation that tries to prove in court that someone has committed a crime อัยการ
inconclusive – not leading to a definite decision or result ซึ่งไม่มีผลสรุปที่แน่ชัด
juvenile – a young person who is not yet an adult เยาวชน
lack – to not have something needed ขาด
conclusive – proving that something is true แน่นอน, เป็นข้อสรุป
evidence – facts statements or objects that help to prove whether or not someone has committed a crime หลักฐาน
apprehensive – worried or frightened that something unpleasant may happen ประหวั่น, ตระหนก, หวั่นกลัว
defendant – someone who has been accused of a crime and is on trial จำเลย
beaming – smiling widely and happily ยิ้มแย้มแจ่มใส
relief – a feeling of happiness that something unpleasant has not happened or has ended การผ่อนคลาย
brief – to give someone instructions or information แจ้งให้ทราบ, รายงาน, สรุป
judgment – an opinion that you have after thinking (carefully) about something การตัดสินใจ, การพิจารณา
release – allowing someone to go free การปล่อยตัว
custody – the state of being in prison or under police control, especially while waiting for trial การกักขัง, การคุมขัง
native – someone who was born in a particular place ชาวพื้นเมือง
burst into tears – to suddenly start crying ร้องไห้
overwhelmed – so affected emotionally by something that it is difficult for you to resist or know how to react; confused and not certain what to do งุนงงอย่างที่สุด
sympathiser – someone who approves of and supports someone or something ผู้สนับสนุน, ผู้เห็นอกเห็นใจ
flock – to go somewhere in large numbers; to gather together in large numbers แห่กันไป
temporary – for a limited time; not permanent ชั่วคราว
pending – waiting to be dealt with, settled or completed ยังค้างอยู่, ซึ่งยังไม่จบสิ้น, อยู่ในระหว่าง
detention – the condition of being forced officially to stay in a place การกักตัว
belligerent – wishing to fight or argue เป็นปฏิปักษ์, ก้าวร้าว
gung-ho – too enthusiastic about something, without thinking seriously about it, especially about fighting and war ซึ่งคลั่งไคล้
innocent – not having done anything wrong บริสุทธิ์
cited – mentioned as an example, explanation or proof of something else อ้าง, กล่าวอ้าง
clause – an item in a legal document that says that a particular thing must or must not be done มาตรา
Criminal Code – the systems of laws dealing with crimes and their punishment ประมวลกฎหมายอาญา
procedure – a way of doing something ขั้นตอนการดำเนินการ
arrest – (of the police) taking someone to a police station because they are believed to have committed a crime การจับกุม
testify – to make a statement about something that you saw, know, or experienced, usually in a court of law or an official investigation ให้การเป็นพยาน
arsonist – a person who commits the crime of deliberately and illegally setting something on fire ผู้ที่ลอบวางเพลิง
apprehended – arrested; caught by the police ถูกจับ, โดนจับกุม
round up – to find and bring together a group of people or animals ; sweep up ไล่จับ (ฆาตรกร, อาชญากร)
take into custody – to arrest; to put someone under control, usually by the police, because they are believed to have committed a crime จับกุม
allegedly – claimed to have done something wrong, but not yet proven ที่กล่าวหา
torch – to deliberately set on fire วางเพลิง
witness – a person who sees something happen ผู้ที่เห็นเหตุการณ์
testimony – a formal statement about something that you say, know or experienced, usually given to a court of law คำให้การ
invade – to enter a place in large numbers, usually when unwanted บุกรุก
handkerchief – a small piece of material or paper that you use for blowing your nose, etc. ผ้าเช็ดหน้า
mask – something that you wear to cover part or all of your face in order to hide who you are or for decoration หน้ากาก, เครื่องปิดหน้า
intrude – to go into a place or situation where you are not allowed, wanted or expected to be บุกรุก, ล่วงล้ำ
scene – site; a place where something happens or happened สถานที่เกิดเหตุ
unanimous – agreed by everyone เป็นเอกฉันท์
theft – (the act of) dishonestly taking something which belongs to someone else and keeping it การลักขโมย
ignite – to (cause to) start burning or explode ก่อไฟ, จุด, จุดไฟ
contextual – connected with a particular situation in which something happens สภาพแวดล้อม
details – small facts or pieces of information relating to a situation รายละเอียด
tattoo – a permanent image, pattern or word on the skin which is created by using needles to put colours under the skin รอยสัก
spot – to see or notice สังเกตเห็น
sentence – (of a court of law) to give a punishment ลงโทษ
violate – to do something that is against a law, rule or agreement ฝ่าฝืน, ละเมิด
emergency decree – a situation where the government takes on special powers in a dangerous situation and the rights of the people are often limited in some way ประกาศภาวะฉุกเฉิน source
rule – (of a court or other group with similar authority) to make and announce a decision ตัดสิน, พิพากษา, ชี้ขาด
sincere – (of a person, feelings or behaviour) not pretending or lying; honest จริงใจ, ตรงไปตรงมา
account – a written or spoken report about something that has happened การอธิบาย
investigation – the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened การสอบสวน, การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง
warrant – to be/make necessary or appropriate in a particular situation มีเหตุผลอันสมควร
reduction – the process or result of making something smaller or less in amount, size, importance etc การลดลง
prison term – a length of time someone is required to stay in prison ระยะเวลาที่จำคุก
trial – the process of examining a case in a court of law and deciding whether someone has or has not committed a crime การพิจารณาคดี
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