PAD leaders in court

4 12 2010

Prachatai reports on the final defense statement by the People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul on a “Civil Court in a lawsuit filed against him and 12 other yellow-shirt leaders by the Airports of Thailand for laying siege to Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Nov 2008, demanding 245 million baht in damages.”

The airport blockade and occupation lasted a week and ended on 2 December 2008, when the Constitutional Court hurriedly dissolved the governing parties and the military brass and palace cobbled together a coalition government led by their favorite, the Democrat Party and Abhisit Vejjajiva when Newin Chidchob was convinced to take a bunch of defectors into government to create a royalist military-civilian coalition. For background, see here and here and this important BBC report.

Sondhi and Chamlong in royal yellow

As he has claimed all along, Sondhi says PAD “held rallies at Bangkok’s airports to pressure a corrupt government, but did not close them,  insisted to the court.” Despite the fact that PAD occupied the airport and PAD guards occupied the control tower, Sondhi claims “the protests at the airports did not harm the aviation business, because the airports were not closed, and airplanes were allowed to take off or land as normal. The protesters gathered in the area called the ‘land side’, which had nothing to do with the taking off or landing of airplanes, and the leaders instructed protestors not to enter the ‘air side’, as they realized that encroachment into that area was against the law, Sondhi said.”

Sondhi does reveal that “the 5 PAD leaders had discussions and Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, the most senior among them, decided to lead protesters to the airports to protest against the government which was considering approval of an NGV bus project, and to pressure it to make progress in the cases of M79 bombings which had killed many yellow shirts.”

More startlingly, Sondhi claims “the protesters allowed any persons to freely enter or leave the premises of both airports.” I guess he means all of the travelers who had to leave. The roads to the airport were variously blocked by barricades, PAD supporters and police. See here and here also.

Sondhi said, as PAD leaders have long claimed, “that it was Director of the AOT Serirat Prasutanond who ordered the closure of the airports. He had no idea whether Serirat’s orders were in line with the International Civilian Aviation Convention or not, but he knew that the board of the AOT reprimanded Serirat for giving the orders without notifying them beforehand.” See this short note and quote from a PAD leader, one PAD (and probably the courts) will ignore.

The occupation of the airports, Sondhi asserted, “did not cause any serious damage which would need large amounts of compensation. Only the toilets got dirty. When the airports were handed back to the AOT, the board even said that the airports were ready to go back into service…”.  Sondhi means physical damage to the airport’s property. But see here and here, where a very early estimate by the Bank of Thailand was that the damage to the economy of the airport occupation was $8.5 billion.

The court is expected to make its ruling on 25 March 2011. However, this case has been dogged by repeated delays.


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4 12 2010
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