Recent Court Verdict Confirms Men in Black
THE recent court verdict against two men accused of possessing unregistered guns during a deadly anti-government rally in Bangkok in April 2010 has confirmed claims that armed “men in black” were among the red-shirt protesters.
On January 31, the Criminal Court sentenced Kittisak Sumsri and Preecha Yooyen each to 10 years in jail for possessing illegal firearms and carrying weapons in public without permission.
The pair had been charged along with fellow demonstrators Ronnarit Saricha, Chamnan Pakeerat and Panika Chusri. But the other three defendants were acquitted by the court due to a lack of evidence.
The case related to clashes on April 10, 2010, when the 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 clash between both sides led to 27 deaths – 22 of them civilians and five military officers, including Colonel Romklao Thuwatham, deputy chief-of-staff from 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 Democracy Monument.
Witnesses reported seeing armed men in black, some wearing hoods to conceal their identity, who fired at military officers with assault rifles and grenade launchers. However, there were also claims by political groups that military officers involved in the crackdown on red-shirt protesters opened fire at each other as well as at demonstrators.
Politically speaking, the court ruling proved the existence of armed men among red-shirt protesters. Government spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the verdict, which came after a trial lasting years, could help refute the claim by political groups that soldiers opened fire at one another, which led to the deaths of many people in the dramatic April 2010 clashes.
That means the claim by some political group that the demonstration on April 10, 2010, was peaceful and unarmed proved to go against the truth. They seemed to distort the facts,” the spokesman said.
“The court found that different kinds of weapons were used including grenade launchers, with the intent to cause harm to others, particularly military officers involved in the operation to reclaim public areas. Society should be well aware of this now,” he said.
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 were charged with murder. So, nobody has been punished for the deadly shootings.
Certainly, a lot of armed men in black responsible for shooting at protesters and military officers taking part in the crackdown have escaped punishment.
In fact, there is a related case in which public prosecutors accused 24 people of being involved in acts of terrorism. The defendants include UDD leaders, red-shirt guards and politicians from the Pheu Thai Party.
That case, which is being heard by the Criminal Court, covers offences committed during the April 2010 incident and during red-shirt rallies at other locations, such as Ratchaprasong intersection. The lawsuit says defendants used war weapons and explosives, as well as grenade launchers and hand grenades.
Thousands of people took part in street protests at many locations between March and May 2010. The violence that followed left at least 89 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.
Credit: Asia Nation