NINE LEADERS of the anti-Yingluck government group whose protests culminated in the May 2014 military coup faced the Criminal Court yesterday to answer sedition and terrorism charges.
Suthep Thaugsuban, then-secretary-general of the now-defunct Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), and eight others who are politicians from the Democrat Party, all denied the nine charges.
The Criminal Court yesterday granted bail of Bt600,000 each for the nine defendants on the condition that they do not leave the country without court permission. The nine defendants earlier had offered a surety of Bt800,000 per person in applying for temporary release.
The court scheduled March 19 for their prosecution and for the defence to examine the lists of witnesses and evidence.
Suthep yesterday said all the nine PDRC leaders agreed to fight the court battle whatever the final court verdict would be.
“We believe in the Thai justice system,” he said, adding that they would not attempt to delay the trial, as had been alleged by some critics.
Suthep also said that the nine leaders should be the only defendants in the case, as they started “all the movement” while the other defendants simply played supporting roles.
In addition to the 69-year-old Suthep, the other defendants are Sathit Wongnongtaey, 57; Chumpol Julasai, 48; Buddhipong Punnakan, 50; Issara Somchai, 72; Witthaya Kaewparadai, 63; Thaworn Senneam, 71; Natthapol Thipasuwan, 52; and Ekkanat Promphan, 32.
Sedition, terrorism, belonging to a criminal organisation, unlawful gathering and obstructing an election were among the nine charges against them.
The PDRC held street protests at many locations in Bangkok for several months from November 2013 to May 2014 against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. Many thousands of people took part in the protests. The political turmoil was used as an excuse for the military led by the then army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha to stage the coup.
A key PDRC member, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, yesterday posted in his Facebook that he had no regrets about what he and his group had done. “If the clock turned back, (I) would do it again,” |he said in the post with hashtag #fight tooth and nail.
During that period, Suthep and other PDRC leaders often led the protesters to the offices of different state agencies and asked their officials to join the rally. The PDRC held a large-scale Bangkok Shutdown campaign in early 2014 at seven key locations in the city, paralysing most of the capital.
The nine PDRC leaders are among the 58 people originally accused in the cases stemming from the anti-government protests between 2013 and 2014, Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) deputy spokesman Prayuth Phetkhun said yesterday. The accused people were leaders or key supporters of the demonstrations.
The Department of Special Investigation, during the Pheu Thai-led government, in May 2014, had requested the Attorney-General to bring the case to court. The public prosecutors later dropped the case against one of the accused, a lecturer at Thammasat University.
In May 2014, four of the accused – including academic Sombat Thamrongthanyawong and media celebrity Seree Wongmontha – were brought to court on the charge of sedition and other charges.
The remaining defendants have sought postponement of their appearance before court, the spokesman said yesterday.
Chartpong Jiraphan, deputy director-general of the Office of the Attorney-General’s Special Litigation Department, said yesterday that the agency would consider whether the defendants had provided justifiable reasons to seek postponement. If their reasons were found to be insufficient, they would be told to show up before court soon, he added.
An OAG working group on the case yesterday evening resolved that the 34 remaining defendants who failed to show up yesterday should report themselves to public prosecutors on March 14 regarding the charges against them, according to a source.