2008 airport protesters cleared of insurrection
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2008 airport protesters cleared of insurrection

13 yellow-shirt activists fined B20,000 each for causing disruption

People’s Alliance for Democracy members gather at Suvarnabhumi Airport in December 2008.
People’s Alliance for Democracy members gather at Suvarnabhumi Airport in December 2008.

The Criminal Court on Wednesday dismissed insurrection charges against 32 yellow-shirt activists who led an anti-government protest that shut down Bangkok’s two main international airports in 2008.

Thirteen out of 32 leading members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will still have to pay a fine of 20,000 baht each for the disruption that closed Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports.

The seizure of the airports was estimated to have cost the Thai economy at least 3 billion baht a day in lost shipment value and other opportunities.

“This case will set a precedent for those who love this country and want to fight for justice in the country to hold protests,” Panthep Puapongpan, one of the 32 activists, told reporters after the ruling was read.

Prosecutors can appeal the ruling.

The PAD blockaded the two airports from Nov 25 to Dec 4, 2008, disrupting hundreds of flights and leaving hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded.

The PAD was formed in 2005 in opposition to then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown a year later in a military coup. Two years later, he fled the country to escape court cases against him. He returned in August last year.

The PAD protesters in 2008 were attempting to force the resignation of leaders of the Somchai Wongsawat government, who were accused of being puppets of Thaksin.

While the airports were still closed by the yellow-shirt protest, the Constitutional Court on Dec 2 dissolved the three parties of the Somchai government coalition.

The court ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove the defendants had committed insurrection, assaulted officials or obstructed them from performing their duties, or illegally detained any official or disrupted a communications system or air travel services during their protest at the airport.

The protest was also peaceful and the protesters were unarmed, resulting in the acquittals.

Nevertheless, the court ordered 13 defendants to pay a fine of 20,000 baht each for trespassing and violating the emergency decree in force at the time.

They included Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pibhop Dhongchai, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Sirichai Mai-ngam and Samran Rodphet.

In a civil case in 2017, the Supreme Court ordered 13 PAD leaders to pay a total of 522 million baht to Airports of Thailand Plc for shutting down the two airports in 2008. The case was closed after the activists were declared bankrupt.

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