Chuvit gets 2-year jail term in bar demolition case

Chuvit gets 2-year jail term in bar demolition case

Chuvit Kamolvisit is escorted to hear the Supreme Court ruling on a case involving forceful demolition of Sukhumvit Soi 10 beer bars and shops in 2003 at the South Bangkok Criminal Court on Thursday. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
Chuvit Kamolvisit is escorted to hear the Supreme Court ruling on a case involving forceful demolition of Sukhumvit Soi 10 beer bars and shops in 2003 at the South Bangkok Criminal Court on Thursday. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

The Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced Rak Thailand Party leader Chuvit Kamolvisit and 65 others to two years in jail without suspension for the demolition of bars and shops on a Sukhumvit Square night strip in 2003.

Chuvit and 65 other defendants were found guilty of hiring others to damage people's properties, trespassing at night and detention for their roles in the forceful demolition of dozens of shops 13 years ago.

Under the ruling, read by the South Bangkok Criminal Court after two adjournments, the Supreme Court found the clearly premeditated crime was blatant and excessive force had been used so there was no ground for suspension.

On the other hand, the court continued, Chuvit had properly compensated the damaged party and turned the disputed plot into a park for public use. This was ground to commute the five-year imprisonment given by the Appeal Court.       

At 4am on Jan 26, 2003, more than 300 men knocked on the doors of the bars and shops on the 10-rai strip of land on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 10. Shortly after, they used backhoes to flatten 60 bars and shops, causing an estimated 100 million baht in damage. Prathuang Srisuk, then 23, who resided in one of the shops, argued with the men and was hit in the left ear as a result.

The men then barricaded the area and set up a temporary shelter. A sign reading: "We support the Interior Ministry's policy to maintain social order" was put up.

Forty-two of the 44 owners of the demolished shops filed a complaint against Chuvit and 130 others, accusing them of trespassing and damaging properties, and forcefully detaining a person.

After a three-year trial, the Bangkok Southern Criminal Court on July 13, 2006 acquitted all defendants except Chuvit's lawyer, Charnwet Malaibucha, who was sentenced to eight months in jail.

On Sept 11, 2012 the Appeal Court found 66 defendants guilty of damaging people's properties. It handed a five-year sentence to 60 defendants, including Chuvit and Maj Thanyathep Thammathorn, formerly of the 11th Infantry Battalion, and imprisoned six others to three years and four months.

The 66 defendants then appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court was first scheduled to deliver the ruling on Aug 23 last year, but was adjourned to Oct 15 after four defendants had failed to show up, including Maj Thanyathep.

The ruling, set for Oct 15, was deferred again to Jan 28 after Chuvit pleaded guilty.  

On Thursday, the massage parlour tycoon-turned-politician arrived at the court at 10am, accompanied by his wife and son. 

He paid respect to a Buddha image in front of the Bangkok South Criminal Court and said he was ready to accept any ruling to set a precedent for other politicians and the general public.

"I'd never thought, even for a second, of fleeing and sipping wine on a yacht," he told reporters before entering the court to hear the sentence.

In late 2005, the land was turned into Chuvit Park, a public park funded by him. Chuvit said he had bought it in 2002 and planned to build a four-star hotel there but had problems with existing tenants.

After the high-profile incident, he gave up the massage parlour business and turned to politics.

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