Red prisoners: Compensation too slow

BANGKOK - Payment of compensation to red-shirts charged, detained and later acquitted of charges laid during the 2010 riots is slow in coming, and there is mounting dissatisfaction with the process.

A protest is planned later this month to demand the government give amnesty to all political prisoners.

Arthit Baosuwan, one of the nine defendants in Central World theft case, told Bangkok Post on Tuesday that only a few dozen detainees were categorised as eligible for the next round of remedial payouts agreed to by the Pheu Thai government a month ago.

The acquitted red-shirts included six other adults and two youths in one case; five defendants (one deaf, one blind) in the Wat Saphan-Din Daeng case; 11 from Udon Thani province; and 13 from Ubon Ratchathani. There were others.

"There are as many as 1,800 people were arrested and charged on various counts and petty charges following the political mayhem. A majority of them were jailed under the provisions of the emergency law. These people should also be entitled under the cabinet resolution (to compensate acquitted prisoners)," said Mr Arthit.

He and other people, including the mother of Kamolgade Akkahad, a volunteer medic killed on April 19, 2010 at Wat Pathumwanaram, met Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at her official residence, Ban Pitsanulok, on Nov 7 last year, more than a month before the cabinet decided to pay to those "legally affected" by the political conflict, he said.

Jiam Thongmak (Photo by Achara Ashayagachat)

Mr Arthit said he felt that any remedial measures for the injustice should not only provide financial help but also  help restore people's dignity  through an amnesty to be enacted in parliament.

"We are talking to brothers and sisters. The payouts need to be given fairly to all, including those whose human dignity was denigrated by  short-term imprisonment," said Mr Arthit, who had a good office job in Bangkok prior to being detained on a charge of stealing from the leading shopping mall, a charge later dismissed

He was speaking at the self-proclaimed Street Justice Council, which hopes to mobilise as many as 10,000 supporters to press on their own government on Jan 29 to seriously consider releasing all political prisoners from their various jails.

Jiam Thongmak, 48, from Buri Ram, said the Pheu Thai-led government had made a nice gesture but there was still no concrete action.

Ms Jiam was arrested on the same day on the same charge as Mr Arthit, though they did not know each other before. The court acquitted them of the theft charges on Dec 1, 2011. No appeal was filed by prosecutors, so she and eight other co-defendants were entitled to the latest round of payouts. The two youths tried on separate charges of arson at CentraWorld were acquitted in December.

"The Justice Ministry's Department of Rights and Liberties Protection has said since our acquittal that they will consider compensation for us — for the one year, six months and 12 days that we were jailed for doing nothing wrong. But so far, no one has been paid," said Ms Jiam.

The promised compensation, she said, would not only strengthen the move to reconciliation among the affected people, but also help restore their previous life.

"Many already had debts before being imprisoned, and being in jails meant we were not able to make repayments. Now our rights and liberties have been crippled and our post-acquittal future is not bright. How can we shake off this uninvited stigma hanging over a mere protester," said the only woman charged in the Central theft case.

Narumon Warunroongroj (Photo by Achara Ashayagachat)

Narumon Warunroongroj, 53, who was acquitted on charges of illegal possession of weapons and ammunition in August 2011, said the payouts came very late.

"Some of those acquitted and those convicted were traumatised and their lives shattered," she said.

Roi Et taxi driver Yutin Singthimas, a former detainee who eventually committed suicide by plunging into the Chao Phraya River early this month, was a clear example, Ms Narumon said.

Somjit Laimanee, 58, a hawker at Ratchaprasong intersection, said several hundred street vendors who were affected from the months-long political rally have also yet to be compensated.

"Only 767 stall owners, mostly from Siam Centre area, each got 50,000 baht compensation during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. Not us," said Mr Somjit.

"The previous government provided us with some cheap loans from the SME bank, and the funding has  already run out," said Ms Somjit from Minburi.

She said the government should make it clear when the affected vendors would be compensated.

Related search: Bangkok 2010 protests, compensation, red-shirts

About the author

columnist
Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter