Thai court drops treason charges

British Broadcasting Corporation

Page last updated at 06:30 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 07:30 UK

 

Anti-government protesters inside the compound of the Government House - 8/10/2008

Some powerful sections of Thai society support the protesters

Thailand’s appeals court has thrown out insurrection charges against nine leaders of anti-government protests.

The court ruling said the treason charges were groundless.

But arrest warrants on lesser charges remain in force, and reports suggest the leaders may be willing to surrender to police. Two are already in custody.

Protesters have been occupying the grounds of government buildings for weeks, saying the government is a proxy for ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

The protests turned violent on Tuesday, when two people were killed in clashes.

Way out of crisis?

“Although the nine suspects have committed illegal acts, it’s unreasonable to issue an arrest warrant on insurrection charges, thus the court revokes insurrection charges for all nine suspects,” said the Appeals Court ruling.

Arrest warrants remain on less serious charges, reportedly including that of illegal assembly.

Two leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Chamlong Srimuang and Chaiwat Sinsuwong, were arrested last week – helping to spark Tuesday’s violent protests.

A lawyer for the remaining seven has said they may be ready to surrender to police if the more serious charges were dropped – paving the way for a possible way out of this political stand-off, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

Without their most charismatic leaders, he says, the protests at Government House would probably soon fade.

But he says the basic problem remains: the protesters’ loathing for Thaksin Shinawatra and those perceived as his allies.

The new prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat – who has refused to bow to their demands to quit – is Mr Thaksin’s brother-in-law.

Mr Thaksin was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 and lives in exile in the UK.

 

Thai court junks raps vs protest leaders

Insurrection charges ‘unreasonable’

 

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 17:35:00 10/09/2008

BANGKOK — Thailand’s Appeals Court dropped insurrection charges against the nine main leaders of the country’s anti-government protests Thursday.

“Although the nine suspects have committed illegal acts, it’s unreasonable to issue an arrest warrant on insurrection charges, thus the court revokes insurrection charges for all nine suspects,” said the Appeals Court ruling.

Aside from the charge of insurrection — which carries the maximum sentence of death or life in prison — the court also dropped charges of conspiracy to commit insurrection and refusing to disperse.

Two less serious charges of illegal assembly and inciting unrest remain.

The seven protest leaders who have not been arrested said later Thursday they would fulfill their promise to surrender to police if the treason charges were dropped.

So far, authorities have arrested two leaders, Chamlong Srimuang and Chaiwat Sinsuwong.

The other seven called on supporters to march to parliament on Tuesday, a rally that erupted into deadly clashes with police.

The Criminal Court later granted bail of 100,000 baht ($3,000) each for Chamlong and Chaiwat, after a senator acted as their guarantor.

“The Court has agreed to grant bail unconditionally for Chamlong and Chaiwat,” PAD lawyer Natthaporn Toprayoon said.

Meanwhile, the government ruled out an appeal of the Appeals Court’s decision to drop the more serious charges.

“The government respects the court’s deliberation,” government spokesman Natthawut Saikua told reporters.

Political turmoil has engulfed the Thai capital since late May, when protesters launched a campaign to overthrow the government because of its ties to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who now lives in exile in Britain.

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