People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders and other key supporters have been charged with aviation law breaches for closing the city’s two airports, Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi, during their drive to oust the government last year.
Among those charged with closing Suvarnabhumi airport is Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
According to the Manager Online website, 16 people, including PAD leaders Sondhi Limthongkul, Chamlong Srimuang, Somsak Kosaisuk, Somkiat Pongpaibul and Pibhop Dhongchai have been charged with criminal offences in relation to the airport blockades, the most serious carrying the death penalty.
Mr Somsak is now leader of the New Politics Party, the political arm of the PAD.
Retired Gen Prathompong Kesornsuk has been charged in relation to blockades at both airports.
Eleven other people have been charged in relation to the Don Mueang airport occupation, and nine face charges in relation to the protest at Suvarnabhumi.
On July 1, Don Muang police and police from Rajathewa station in charge of Suvarnabhumi in Samut Prakan’s Bang Phli district, asked those facing charges to report to authorities on July 16.
Protesters at Don Mueang airport have been charged with four criminal offences including attempting to instigate unrest despite warnings from authorities.
The severest punishment is seven years in jail.
Demonstrators at Suvarnabhumi have been charged with seven offences including obstructing aviation, which can result in the death penalty if convicted.
Protesters at Suvarnabhumi also face terrorism charges, under Article 135 of the Criminal Code, for damaging relations with other countries. The maximum penalty on that charge is life imprisonment and a 1 million baht fine.
PAD lawyer Suwat Apipak said his clients would deny all charges. “The PAD rally was held in line with the constitution which allows public gatherings. All who face charges will report to authorities in accordance with the summons and will deny all charges,” he said.
Mr Kasit, who is in Qatar, could not be reached for comment. He returns to Bangkok today. An official close to him said the minister would not make any decision about his future until charges are filed against him in court.
The closure of the two airports was part of what the PAD called its “final war” against the government led by then prime minister Somchai Wongsawat.
It included the occupation of Government House which forced his cabinet to work elsewhere, including Don Mueang.
The PAD argued Mr Somchai was a proxy for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose influence it has tried to expel.
PAD supporters occupied Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports soon after they started a mass rally on Nov 23 last year.
Airports of Thailand, the agency in charge, closed the airports for safety reasons.
The airport closure and all rallies ended on Dec 2 when the Constitution Court disbanded Mr Somchai’s People Power Party, and coalition partners Matchimathipataya and Chart Thai for poll fraud. The Bank of Thailand estimates the damage from the airport closure cost the country 210 billion baht.
Kasit unconcerned over airport closure case
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has expressed no concern over the police’s summons for questioning on his participation in the seizure of Suvarnabhumi International Airport last year.
Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Chavanond Intarakomalyasut informed that Mr Kasit had prepared his own lawyer to compile all witnesses and evidence for his elucidation with inquiry officials that he had attended the rally of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) as a guest speaker only. Mr Chavanond informed that the minister will appear for his summons to acknowledge all charges on 16 July 2009, but he might ask for an earlier date if he had to be away on a mission.
According to his secretary, Mr Kasit has already conferred with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who deemed the issue as less of a problem. The Prime Minister also declared that the Foreign Minister was allowed to perform his duty as usual while the case was under the interrogation process.
Kasit Not to resign
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will keep on working although police have issued a summons for him and other leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), to be questioned on alleged involvement in last year’s seizure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.
Panit Wikitset, vice foreign minister, said Kasit would be ready to comply with the law but he would not stop working and he had informed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of his intention not to leave the office.
Panit said Kasit would return from Qatar in two days.
The Ratchathewi police station required Kasit and 24 other PAD leaders to report themselves at 1pm on July 16, while the Don Muang police station has summoned Kasit and 26 other PAD members to be questioned by police at 9:30am on the same day.
Abhisit said yesterday Kasit could go on working as foreign minister but he would not have any privileges regarding the case.
The prime minister said police and public prosecutors must handle the case straightforwardly.
He said it would be too soon to say whether Kasit would be removed from Cabinet.
Thepthai Senpong, spokesman for the Democrat leader, said Kasit could remain in office although police had summoned him for questioning.
He said Kasit was only a suspect and it would take several more procedures before his case could be finalised.
But Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Kasit should resign immediately because he gave an interview in February that he would quit to defend himself in court if he faced charges regarding the airport seizures.
Sathit Pitudecha, a Democrat executive, said charges police had slapped on Kasit were too severe in accusing him of committing an act of terrorism.
In the charges, Kasit and other PAD leaders were accused of invasion and destruction of property, inciting unrest, and an act of terrorism causing the Airports of Thailand to temporarily close down operations.
Suriyasai Katasila, a PAD leader, said the summonses against the total of 36 PAD leaders in the two airport cases were apparently aimed at certain political goals.
Suriyasai said the charges were exaggerated and groundless and might later be ordered by the court to be dropped like the sedition charge against the PAD earlier.
Suriyasai noted the red-shirt movement had rioted and disrupted the Asean summit in Pattaya and attempted to capture and harm the prime minister, but the red-shirt leaders faced much less severe charges than the PAD leaders.
Suriyasai said police might use the PAD cases as a warning message against the red-shirt movement or might want to weaken the PAD, which has set up its own political party.
However, PAD leaders would report themselves to police as summoned because they were sure of their innocence.
By The Nation
Published on July 6, 2009
Mr Kasit declared through the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) tonight that he will not resign from his post at this time despite the terrorism charge stemming from his involvement in the PAD’s airport seizure.
The Foreign Minister clarified that he had never informed Al Jazeera the he would quit the post, adding that he merely said he would resign when the right time had come. He elaborated that, when he was on the PAD stage, he only had a pen and not any kind of weapons and thus urged the police to carefully reconsider their meaning of a terrorist.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya reported to police after returning from Qatar on Monday afternoon to acknowledge charges relating to the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s occupation of Bangkok’s two airports last year.
He reported to police before the July 16 deadline set by police, and was released after hearing the charges.
Somchai Sawaengkarn, a senator, said that legally Mr Kasit is still innocent since he has not been convicted, unlike former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was convicted in the Ratchadapisek land case and is still facing other charges, but Puea Thai MPs still claim he is innocent.
The senator said several ministers in the Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat governments were charged in many cases but they continued to hold on to political posts.
He said Noppadon Pattama had to resign as foreign minister because the Administrative Court ruled that he was in the wrong after National Anti-Corruption Commission pointed out that he had violated Article 190 of the constitution by signing an agreement to support Cambodia’s listing of Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site without consent from parliament.