A handicapped victim of the 2009 crackdown on anti-government protesters on Thursday has filed a petition asking the Army to desist from disposing of his assets to compensate the Army for legal expenses incurred in fighting the case against him.
Sawai Thong-om, who was shot during the crackdown, leaving his left hand permanently disabled, had lost his lawsuit against the Army. The Appeal Court and the Supreme Court ruled that the bullet which injured Sawai could not be proved as belonging to the Army.
Sawai had won the case in Civil Court, which ruled that the authority was responsible for the damage caused by the crackdown and ordered the Army to pay Bt1.2-million compensation to Sawai.
After winning the case, the Army sued Sawai for Bt212,114 compensation for court and legal expenses. As a consequence, his 8 rai of land was seized to be sold in an auction as part of the compensation.
Sawai went to the Defence Ministry on Thursday with some political activists to “ask for justice”, as he filed his petition with Deputy PM and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.
“I filed the case [against the Army] with pure intention. I believe I saw the bullets fired on the protesters came from the Army side,” said Sawai, recalling the bloody day in April 2009 at the Din Daeng intersection.
“It’s painful enough that I can’t find anyone responsible for causing my disability. It’s even worse that my lands, which I use for my livelihood, are about to be seized,” he said.
Political activist Somyot Preuksakasemsuk said Sawai should not be forced to compensate the Army, as it had not suffered any financial damage and it had only used state prosecutors to fight the case against Sawai.
“If this case ends with Sawai’s lands being seized, I’m worried if anyone would dare to enter the legal process to seek justice anymore,” Somyot said.
The military was involved in crackdowns on anti-government protesters in 2009 and 2010 following the worsening political conflict between Thaksin Shinawatra’s supporters and the then-Democrat-led government of Abhisit Vejjajiva.
More than 120 people, including Sawai, were injured in the 2009 crackdown while there have been conflicting reports on the number of deaths.
The crackdown on protesters in May 2010 caused more than 90 deaths and left more than 2,000 people injured.
While the military was largely viewed as responsible for the casualties, little legal progress has been made against the perpetrators up till now.
Some high-ranking military commanders of the time, including Prawit who was also defence minister back then, and then-Army chief General Anupong Paochinda, have remained in power and become prominent figures in the current ruling junta.