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Thai 'Yellow Shirt' activists trial postponed

Decision to delay trial of nearly 100 activists accused of staging 2008 protests prompted by lack of legal presentation.

Last Modified: 29 Apr 2013 12:07
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Defendants face charges over the 2008 protests that led to the seizure of Thailand's two main airports [Reuters]

A Thai court has postponed the trial of nearly 100 Thai royalist activists who were facing charges for their roles in 2008 rallies that paralysed Thailand's main airports stranding thousands of tourists.

The activists, who belong to the nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), appeared at the Thai Criminal Court on Monday charged with a wave of demonstrations against allies of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2008. 

The group is called Yellow Shirts because of the colour of their outfits.

The court, however, decided to wait until July 29 to hear from the defendants as some of those charged did not have legal representation. 

"The defendants have said they want to appoint their own lawyers because they face serious charges with maximum sentence of the death penalty. The hearing cannot continue if defendants have no lawyers," said the presiding judge.

The defendants, who face a variety of charges, were planning to plead not guilty according to lawyer Puangtip Boonsanong.

"They will deny all charges," she said ahead of the crowded hearing.

A total of 114 defendants face charges over the 2008 anti-government protests, which included the seizure of two airports, a blockade of parliament and the storming of Government House.

Key Yellow Shirts, including the group's media mogul founder Sondhi Limthongkul, face terrorism charges over their alleged role in occupying the airports.

Colour-coded politics

That siege by the group, who boast support from Bangkok elites and elements in the military, was their last major show of force on the Thai capital's streets, which frequently play host to the nation's sharply divided politics.

Criminal investigations against the arch nationalist group have been sluggish, prompting resentment and claims of double standards by their rival "Red Shirts" - who are allied Thaksin.

Many leaders of the mainly rural, working class Reds were swiftly locked up on terrorism charges after their street protest in the heart of Bangkok in 2010 which came to a bloody end after an army crackdown.

Having taken to the streets in the run up to Thaksin's removal in a 2006 military coup, the group heaped pressure on his allies in government in 2008.

In late November of that year they blocked Don Mueang airport on the northern outskirts of Bangkok before moving to occupy the larger Suvarnabhumi Airport for a week.

The Yellow Shirts abandoned the blockade after a decision by Thailand's Constitutional Court resulted in the dismissal of then prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, from office.

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Source:
AFP
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