Acquittals in royal decorations case

The Supreme Court on Thursday acquitted two people in a 25-year-old royal decorations case after giving them the benefit of doubt.

The two are Pattaya Pimsa-ard, a former Bangkok Bank employee, and Aree Sartsara, a former assistant to the education permanent secretary. 

They are two of four remaining defendants in the historic case that originally involved 16 people and more than 100 prosecution witnesses.    

The 16 defendants in the trial, which began in 1988, were charged with forging documents to serve as proof of eligibility for royal decorations. 

Since the case began, nine defendants, one judge and four defence lawyers have died.

After years of trial and considering the testimony of prosecution and defence witnesses, the Criminal Court found Phra Ratpanyakosol, then abbot of Wat Thepsirin, conspired with the other 15 defendants, to solicit donations from donors and gave them forged receipts which were to be submitted to prove eligibility for royal decorations.

The court, however, dismissed the charges against eight defendants including Phra Ratpanyakosol after they died pending trial.

In 2005, the court sentenced five people to a total of between 1,170 and 2,660 years in jail and acquitted three others on grounds of benefit of doubt.

The jail sentences were, however, commuted to 50 years each as required by article 91 of the Criminal Code.

The five found guilty filed appeals. One of them later died before the appeals could be heard. 

Thursday’s court order overrides the verdicts of the Criminal Court and Appeals Court, which sentenced Ms Pattaya to 1,920 years in jail and Mr Aree to 1,470 years.

The two defendants in Thursday's hearing deserved the benefit of doubt given that the evidence did not carry much weight and left room for doubt, according to the court’s ruling.

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