Verdict set in CentralWorld arson trial

The Criminal Court will deliver its verdict on March 25 for two defendants charged with torching the CentralWorld shopping complex.

The court yesterday heard from the final two defence witnesses in the trial of Saichol Paebua and Pinij Channarong.

Mr Saichol and Mr Pinij were among four defendants accused by the public prosecution of setting fire to the shopping complex during the 2010 red-shirt political violence.

The other two suspects were tried separately in the Central Juvenile and Family Court and were acquitted last month for lack of evidence.

Two retired policemen appeared before the Criminal Court yesterday to testify as witnesses for the defence.

Pol Maj Sangiem Samranrat, 61, told the court he had hired Mr Saichol for 300 baht per day to look after his CD shop at the Imperial Department Store, Lat Phrao. On May 19, 2010, the day the shopping centre was set on fire, Mr Saichol was at the shop selling CDs, Pol Maj Sangiem said.

Pol Lt Col Choompol Boongprayoon, 72, adviser to CentralWorld's security team and the final defence witness, said he did not believe the people arrested were the ones who set the fire.

He said that judging from closed-circuit TV footage, photos and video clips taken by his friends, the people arrested would not have had the capacity to set the blaze.

"The people who were arrested... were rather those who fled the street violence and came into the building before the real fire erupted that evening."

Pol Lt Col Choompol said a fire broke out about 1.35pm but it was doused by sprinklers. "There were altogether about 400 people including 100 or more [security personnel] at the shopping centre when the fire broke out," he said.

The footage showed a group of people, some wearing military clothing and helmets, arrive later and set another fire, he said. Staff could not handle the group and called the police for help. Police, however, withdrew when they saw the group, he said. Firefighters arrived at 10pm, but extensive damage had already been caused.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter