Five former members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) including Somkiat Pongpaiboon, one of its top leaders, have been jailed for 1-2 years over the 2008 raid and seizure of a National Broadcasting Services of Thailand station during protests against the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed government.
The court verdict was read at Bangkok’s Ratchadapisek Criminal Court on Wednesday (February 12), citing creating a disturbance, unlawful intrusion and coercion.
It dismissed charges of racketeering on grounds of insufficient evidence.
Somkiat was ordered imprisoned for two years while Anchalee Paireerak, Phuwadol Songprasert, Yuthiyong Limlertwathee and Chitipat Limthongkul were each given one-year terms.
All are applying for bail pending appeals to a higher court.
The stand convicted of leading 85 others – some already sentenced, some still awaiting trial – in creating chaos by marching on public roads and carrying weapons including guns, knives, axes, golf clubs, wooden batons and slingshots with metal balls.
Reaching the government-run television station, the primary court found, the mob smashed doors and windows, tore down electrical wires and destroyed phone, computer and CCTV systems and broadcasting equipment.
They coerced station employees into abandoning their duties and drove them out of the station.
Prosecution witnesses including police officers who were on guard duty and an NBT director and cameramen testified that the PAD demonstrators had gathered around Makawan Rangsan Bridge in a bid to oust the government of then-Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and had declared the NBT the government’s mouthpiece.
They said the mob collapsed a metal gate and pushed aside police to enter the compound, where the five defendants declared they were “the people’s army” and had been commanded to seize the station. They ordered the police to evacuate.