Five jailed leaders of the yellow-shirt movement were released from prison on Friday under a royal pardon granted to qualified prisoners nationwide on the occasion of the Royal Coronation of HM King Rama X.
Four of them – Pipob Thongchai, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila – walked free from Bangkok Remand Prison and were welcomed by a group of supporters who gave them flowers and hugs. They wore short hair, white T-shirts and short pants and appeared to have lost weight
They sat before a portrait of the King before waiing him to show their gratitude for releasing them. Meanwhile, Chamlong Srimuang, 72, another leader of the now-defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy, was separately released from a prison hospital. It was not known why he had been admitted to the hospital.
The five began their prison sentence on February 13 after the Supreme Court found them guilty for seizing Government House in 2008. They were due to be released in October but the royal pardon allowed them to walk free after only three months inside.
Somkiat said that he, as a subject of the monarch, felt gratitude for his mercy in granting pardons for the prisoners so that they could return to their families.
Apparently referring to former premiers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, who escaped court verdicts on corruption charges by fleeing to foreign countries, Somsak said he and his group respected the sentences and served time in prison instead of escaping.
He pledged to work to protect the country’s interests from corruption and social disparity. Somkiat also referred to another leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, who also received the pardon but remained in prison over other offences. Somkiat said he had not met Sondhi in prison but once met him during a court session.
During the jail term he met some red-shirt leaders and had opportunities to exchange experiences on many occasions, he said. “We critiqued ourselves and our own lessons. We expect to write a book about life in prison,” he said.