x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Thai police charge 60 Yellow Shirts over sieges

Move comes after rival Red Shirts jailed after last year's Bangkok riots complain of double standards.

BANGKOK // Thai police have charged dozens of royalist "Yellow Shirts", half of them with terrorism offences, over the seizure of two Bangkok airports in 2008, a spokesman for the movement said. Sixty members of the People's Alliance for Democracy, as the Yellows are formally known, heard their charges at Bangkok's crime suppression bureau, while about 200 of their supporters noisily gathered in front of the building.

Two of the protest's leaders, Sondhi Limthongkul and Somsak Kosaisuk, were among 30 in the group who faced terrorism charges, said Samaran Rodpetch, spokesman for the movement's political wing, the New Politics Party. "Police told us the charges and we deny them all," he told reporters, adding that all of those charged would submit written testimony within 30 days. The Yellow Shirts' siege at Bangkok's two main airports in 2008 stranded hundreds of thousands of tourists and helped to topple a government allied to the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin himself had been unseated in 2006 in a coup partially triggered by Yellow Shirt rallies. The group claims allegiance to the throne and is backed by the Bangkok-based elite, who detest Thaksin, the hero of the mostly poor and working class "Red Shirts". Seventeen Red Shirt protest leaders, most of them now in jail after violent protests in Bangkok between March and May this year, have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges and will face trials for their role in that unrest.

A further two Red leaders, who are opposition politicians, also face terrorism charges but can delay their plea submissions until after the current term of parliament finishes. The Reds' two-month-long protest in central Bangkok descended into several outbreaks of violence that left 90 people dead and nearly 1,900 injured, ending in a bloody army crackdown in May. The movement had complained that the lack of charges filed against the rival Yellows over the airport blockade showed a "double standard of justice".

* AFP