Court acquits Thanu of coal activist killing

The Appeal Court on Friday acquitted the convicted mastermind behind the killing of an activist who led protests against a coal-fired power plant project in Bo Nok, Prachuap Khiri Khan, almost a decade ago.

It also upheld the lower court's decision to acquit two other suspects of ordering the murder.

The ruling concerns the killing of Charoen Wat-aksorn, who was shot dead aged 37 at Bo Nok intersection in Muang district on June 21, 2004. He was a leader of protests against a coal-fired power plant proposed by Gulf Electric Co.

Prosecutors indicted lawyer Thanu Hinkaew; Manote Hinkaew, a former Prachuap Khiri Khan councillor; and Jua Hinkaew, a former kamnan of tambon Bo Nok and the father of Mr Thanu and Mr Manote. The three were accused of hiring Saneh Lekluan and Prachuap Hinkaew to gun down Charoen.

On Dec 30, 2008, the Criminal Court sentenced Mr Thanu to death for masterminding the murder and acquitted Mr Manote and Mr Jua.

The ruling was based on the accounts of two suspected gunmen who died during their detention before the ruling.

However, the Appeal Court ruled yesterday that apart from the accounts of the suspected gunmen, the public prosecution had no additional evidence to prove Mr Thanu had ordered the killing.

The court also said the death of the suspected gunmen which had occurred during the Criminal Court's trial reduced the weight of their accounts.

The Appeal Court noted that according to reports from police interrogators, the two suspected gunmen had not identified Mr Manote and Mr Jua as masterminds.