Red shirts plan protest for amnesty, compensation

Red shirts are threatening to rally later this month to demand the government grant amnesty to all political prisoners and to compensate all those acquitted.

Compensation for red shirts charged, detained and later acquitted of charges laid during the 2010 violence has been slow in coming, increasing dissatisfaction among those affected.

Arthit Baosuwan, one of nine acquitted defendants in the CentralWorld mall looting case, told the Bangkok Post that only a few dozen detainees were eligible for the next round of payouts approved by the government a month ago.

These include five acquitted red shirts from the Wat Saphan case in the Din Daeng area, 11 from Udon Thani province and 13 from Ubon Ratchathani.

"As many as 1,800 people were unjustly arrested on petty charges," Mr Arthit said. "The majority of them were jailed under the provisions of the emergency decree. These people should also be entitled to compensation under the cabinet resolution."

He and other people, including the mother of Kamolkade Akkahad, a volunteer medic killed on April 19, 2010, at Wat Pathum Wanaram, met with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Nov 7, more than a month before the cabinet decided to pay those "legally affected" by the political conflict, Mr Arthit said.

"We are talking to brothers and sisters. The payouts need to be distributed fairly to all, including those whose dignity was denigrated by short-term imprisonment," Mr Arthit said.

He said he was joining the "Friends of Thai Political Prisoners", or the Street Justice movement, to mobilise up to 10,000 supporters on Jan 29 to press the government to release all political prisoners.

Jiam Thongmak, 48, from Buri Ram, said the Pheu Thai-led government's gesture was appreciated, but she had yet to see any concrete action.

Ms Jiam was arrested on the same day and on the same theft charge as Mr Arthit, though they did not know each other at the time. The court acquitted them both on Dec 1, 2011.

"After our acquittal the Justice Ministry's Department of Rights and Liberties Protection said they would consider compensating us for the one year, six months and 12 days we spent in jail for doing nothing wrong. But so far, no one has been paid," Ms Jiam said.

Compensation, she said, would not only strengthen moves towards reconciliation, but help affected people put their lives back on track.

"Many already had debts before being imprisoned, and being in jail meant we were not able to make repayments," said Ms Jiam, the only woman charged in the CentralWorld looting case. "Our rights and liberties have been trampled upon and our futures are not bright."

Narumon Warunroongroj, 53, who was acquitted in August 2011 of illegally possessing weapons and ammunition, said she had received compensation but the payout was very late in coming.

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

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

Somjit Laimanee, 58, a vendor at Ratchaprasong intersection, said several hundred street vendors whose livelihoods were affected by the political turmoil have also yet to be compensated.

"Some 767 stall owners, mostly from the Siam Center area, each received 50,000 baht in compensation from the Abhisit Vejjajiva government - but not us," he said.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter