CHON BURI – A Court in Chon buri Thailand has sentenced 13 members of the “Red Shirt” political movement to four years in prison Thursday for inciting rioting that disrupted an important regional conference in 2009, news reports said.
The sentencing by a court in Pattaya is the latest blow against supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 after being accused of corruption and disrespect for the king.
Those sentenced included two of the group’s more senior leaders, Worachai Hemma, a former pro-Thaksin lawmaker, and Arisman Pongruangrong, a former pop singer, the Bangkok Post newspaper reported on its website. Two of the 15 were absent for the sentencing, and the others were held after an initial denial of bail.
The disrupted meeting was a gathering of leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, some of whom were evacuated by helicopter after the Red Shirt mob broke into the hotel hosting the conference.
The protesters, numbering about 2,000, were demanding that then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call new elections because they felt he rose to office illegitimately after two prime ministers they supported were forced from office under questionable circumstances.
Thaksin and his allies have won every national election since 2001. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was forced from the prime minister’s job last year.
Thaksin’s supporters believe the country’s traditional establishment fears his popularity and is attempting to reduce his influence. Their suspicions are fueled by a pattern of court rulings which have condemned Thaksin’s supporters while leaving his opponents mostly untouched.
Karom Polpornklang, the lawyer who represented the 13 defendants jailed by the court yesterday, said he has filed an appeal and requested bail releases for his clients.
All of the defendants are currently being held at Nong Pla Lai Remand Prison.