‘Man in black’ defendant’s appeal upheld
The Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld a decision that dismissed a firearms possession case against a so-called “man in black” allegedly involved in violent clashes during the crackdown on red shirts in 2010.
Kittisak Sumsri, who is in jail on a separate charge, was accused of possessing illegal firearms and carrying them in public areas without permission after a car containing nearly 20 firearms was found abandoned in Ram Intra area in mid-May 2010. The cache was later linked to Kittisak and two other defendants.
The first court dismissed the case on the grounds that witness statements and other evidence did not carry enough weight to convict him. The court said that witnesses’ testimonies were not consistent, and that DNA checks and fingerprints found on the weapons did not match Kittisak’s.
The Appeal Court agreed and upheld the verdict.
Kittisak’s lawyer, Winyat Chatmontri, thanked the court and said he would use this verdict in an appeal on the other case.
Winyat said the firearms in this case were claimed by several witnesses to have been used in the “men in black” operations that resulted in Kittisak being jailed for 10 years on another charge.
A court early this year sentenced Kittisak and another man, Preecha Yooyen, each to 10 years for possessing illegal firearms and carrying weapons in public without permission in the case related to clashes on April 10, 2010. Another three defendants were acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
The then-government, led by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, started an operation to “reclaim public areas” following weeks of street protests by the red shirts affiliated with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
The clashes led to at least 27 deaths – 22 of them civilians and five military officers, including Colonel Romklao Thuwatham, deputy chief-of-staff of the Second Infantry Division of Royal Guards. Japanese photojournalist Hiroyuki Muramoto, who worked for Reuters news agency, was among those killed on that day near the protest site at the Democracy Monument.
Witnesses reported seeing armed men in black, some wearing hoods to conceal their identities, who fired at military officers with assault rifles and grenade launchers, prompting the case to be dubbed the “men in black” case.
However, in the court verdict the convicted men were not clearly identified as assailants in the deadly shootings in April, 2010. None of the five defendants in that case was charged with murder.