Amnesty law could free many convicted for arson attacks
Damage to provincial halls, TV station estimated at hundreds of millions of bahtIf the ruling Pheu Thai Party and red-shirt leaders succeed in pushing through an amnesty law, those involved in the 2010 torching of provincial halls and a state-run TV station in the Northeast could also benefit.
Hundreds of people, apparently acting on orders from red-shirt leaders in Bangkok, stormed into the provincial hall premises in the four Northeast provinces of Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Mukdahan on May 19, 2010, and set fire to the buildings. The NBT television station in Khon Kaen was also a target of the arson attacks.
May 19 was the day when red-shirt leaders ended their 10-week anti-government rally in Bangkok. Many buildings in the capital, including CentralWorld near the main protest site, were torched and looted by rioters.
More than 90 people were killed and about 2,000 others were injured during the political unrest that began in mid-March that year. Among the casualties were protesters, soldiers, policemen, passers-by, locals and foreign journalists.
The damage caused to Udon Thani's provincial hall and nearby administrative buildings was estimated at Bt203 million. Ubon Ratchathani's historically significant provincial hall was severely damaged by fire and the damage was estimated at Bt92 million.
In Khon Kaen, the torching of the old and new provincial hall buildings caused damage worth estimated at Bt135 million. The state-run NBT TV station suffered damage estimated at Bt225 million when its Khon Kaen station building and broadcast equipment were set on fire.
Damage to the Mukdahan Provincial Hall was estimated at Bt85 million.
Many of those involved in the Northeast arson attacks were arrested and tried by the respective provincial courts, while others remain at large.
Several were found guilty of setting fire to state agency premises and given long prison terms ranging from 20 years to more than 33 years. They were also ordered by court to pay compensation of several millions of baht for the damage.
Others arrested in connection with the raids on provincial halls were given less severe punishment, ranging from six months to four and a half years, as there was no evidence to prove they had been directly involved in the arson attacks. Most of these people, who were found guilty of trespassing on a state agency's compound or violating the emergency law, state of emergency law, have already completed their jail terms. Some others who were arrested by local police or Department of Special Investigation were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, those serving lengthy jail terms are now in the process of appealing.
On October 28, 2011, the Udon Thani Provincial Court tried 22 people held in connection with the 2010 arson attack.
Five of them - all men - were found guilty of committing arson and were given sentences ranging from 11 years and three months to 22 and a half years.
Three of them - Athit Saithong, Decha Komkham and Buarien Pangsa - were ordered by court to pay a combined compensation of Bt142 million, and two others - Wanchai Raksa-nguansilp and Kittipong Chaikang - were told to pay a combined compensation of Bt57.7 million. Wanchai died in December last year while in detention at the Lak Si special prison in Bangkok.
Four other people were found guilty of violating the emergency law, trespassing into a state agency's compound and causing damage to property. One was sentenced to four and half years, and the three others got two and a half years each. All of them were ordered to pay Bt20,000 each in compensation for the damage caused.
Thirteen others in the Udon Thani case were sentenced to six months in jail for violating the emergency law and all of them had completed their terms.
In the Ubon Ratchathani case, 21 people were sued in connection with the provincial hall raid.
On August 24, 2011, the Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Court sentenced four of them to 33 years and four months in prison each for committing arson and four others to two years in prison for trespassing. Another got a year in prison and three others eight months for violating the emergency law. Nine other defendants were acquitted.
On October 27, 2011, the Mukdahan Provincial Court sentenced 13 of the 29 defendants brought to court to 20 years in jail each for setting the provincial hall ablaze, damaging state property and trespassing into a state agency's compound. Sixteen others were acquitted.
In Khon Kaen, about 300 people were wanted in connection with the arson attack on the provincial hall but only three have been arrested and taken to court. Local prosecutors said they planned to sue another 39 people who are at large.
Regarding the NBT case, only one of the more than 200 people wanted has been arrested. The defendant was sentenced to two years in jail for trespassing and violating the emergency law.