By The Nation
Leaders of the yellow shirts’ now defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will meet today to discuss further moves. They will announce their position after the meeting.
An invitation was extended through Facebook to all leaders of the movement and people concerned to meet on Friday at 9am at Ban Phra Arthit. The property belongs to the group’s leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, who is serving a 20-year jail term for forgery relating to a bank loan deal.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders acquitted former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, his deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, then-police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan, and then-Metropolitan Police chief Pol Lt-General Suchart Muenkaew.
The four defendants were found not guilty in regard to the police crackdown on yellow-shirt protesters in October 2008 that left two people killed and more than 400 others injured.
Upon learning of the acquittal, the PAD called on the NACC to appeal the court ruling, but the agency’s president, Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, responded that commissioners would need to carefully study the verdict and relevant legal points before deciding on an appeal.
An NACC source said yesterday that this current set of commissioners did not deal with the case from the beginning so they need to study it in detail before reaching a conclusion whether to appeal. The source expected a decision to be made before the 30-day deadline for appealing the verdict.
The case was brought to the Supreme Court by the NACC in 2015 by the previous set of commissioners, most of whom have since been replaced.
Yellow shirts must follow the law, says Prawit
Watcharapol is one of the new commissioners. He had served as spokesman for the Royal Thai Police when Patcharawat, one of the defendants in the case, was the national police chief. After his retirement from the police force, Watcharapol was appointed secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is Patcharawat’s elder brother, and also a member of the National Legislative Assembly.
Later, Watcharapol, having resigned from all his other positions, applied to become an NACC member when applications were opened. He succeeded in becoming a new NACC commissioner. Shortly after the new commissioners assumed office, the NACC set up a working group to consider whether to withdraw the case from the court, after the defendants petitioned for fair treatment. A decision to withdraw was delayed repeatedly.
However, after warnings of possible legal repercussions and opposition from many people, the NACC finally resolved not to withdraw the case. With the ball back in the NACC’s court, some observers said it was unlikely the agency would appeal, judging from the way it dealt with the idea of withdrawing the case previously.
Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday said the PAD must follow the law if it wanted to hold a public gathering in reaction to the court ruling on the case.
Prawit said there is a public gathering act in place and any public gatherings must follow this law. He said he did not believe they would create the disorder experienced in the past, and that security officers would be deployed to ensure peaceful gatherings.