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Reprieve for Jatuporn complicates reshuffle

PM in a quandary as she cannot have two red-shirt leaders in her Cabinet

A Criminal Court decision yesterday to acquit red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan, while putting a lesser-known leader like Yoswarit Chooklom under detention, could obviously complicate the Cabinet reshuffle expected in October, because Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra cannot afford to have two red-shirt leaders in her Cabinet. Natthawut Saikua already serves as deputy agriculture minister.

The Criminal Court yesterday revoked the bail of red-shirt co-leader Yoswarit, better known as Jeng Dokjik, because it believed the defendant had every intention to "create disturbance and harm" the Constitution Court judges and their families by announcing their phone numbers and addresses at a rally.

The judges said it was not clear if the defendant would create more disturbances if he were to be freed on bail. Though 18 other red-shirt leaders, including Jatuporn Promphan, escaped a similar fate, they have been told not to create any disturbances or leave the Kingdom. According to the judges, Jatuporn was merely being "rude" in his speeches.

Since Yoswarit is subject to immediate detention, reportedly due to document technicalities, he was taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison with an armed escort. The other red-shirt leaders later contacted Pheu Thai Party members, who are ministers, to obtain the permission to secure Yoswarit's release on bail using their position as guarantee.

Yoswarit's lawyer also tried to secure bail by submitting Bt2 million in cash as guarantee to the Criminal Court. However, there were no details on the two attempts at press time yesterday.

JATUPORN'S RESPONSE

Jatuporn said he felt sorry for Yoswarit, adding that red-shirt leaders would have to be more careful about their political activities in the future.

Separately, the court's decision to not revoke Jatuporn's bail means he can still be granted a Cabinet post. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will obviously have some tough decisions to make in the next reshuffle, especially as many people have been heard saying that she cannot afford to have two core red-shirt leaders in her Cabinet.

The tension was obvious yesterday morning as hundreds of police officers, wielding anti-riot shields, stood guard outside the Criminal Court. The two main gates were kept shut and anybody wanting to enter the premises had to register in advance and wear a tag.

Outside the court, some thousand or so red-shirt supporters gathered under the scorching sun from early morning to well into the afternoon after the court postponed its verdict to 3pm. Some of the red-shirt supporters also displayed gory pictures of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown.

The crowd exploded into loud cheer for several minutes when they caught sight of their leaders entering the court in the afternoon.

After the verdict was announced, Natthawut said Yosawarit was "meeting his fate like a warrior" and that all red-shirt leaders had to be more careful even though the court has not limited their political freedom. Natthawut also reminded the crowd that some ordinary red-shirt supporters were still in jail and had not been granted bail yet.

Before the verdict was announced, Pheu Thai party-list MP and red-shirt co-leader Weng Tojirakarn said he could not condone Yosawarit's behaviour. Yosawarit had allegedly provided Constitution Court judges' personal phone numbers and home addresses to the crowds and encouraged them to ring the judges and air their displeasure at the court's attempt to halt the charter-rewrite process.

Weng, Jatuporn and 16 other red-shirt leaders remain free because the judges have found that they had not violated the bail condition related to their terrorism charges. Their supporters greeted this news with great cheer, while some offered to back Yoswarit as he continued the fight.

"Everybody is safe except [Yoswarit]," a supporter announced on a loud speaker after the verdict was read. "We must accept this as part of the struggle. If we don't accept the court's decision, then others [from different political groups] won't accept it in the future either."

Before the verdict, Yoswarit told the media that he had no intention to harass the Constitution Court judges and hoped the Criminal Court would be lenient. He said that he had released the phone numbers and addresses as a joke but had apologised later and told the red shirts not to call the judges and their families.

Red-shirt lawyer Arnon Nampha, who represents the red-shirt leaders, told The Nation yesterday that the red-shirt supporters had gathered in front of the court in order to scrutinise the procedure.

"I think the red shirts have doubts about the court and they were here to show the court that they were watching," Arnon said.


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