Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan (2nd R) at a press conference before reporting to police in Bangkok on August 2, 2016.
AFP, Lillian Suwanrumpha
Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan (2nd R) at a press conference before reporting to police in Bangkok on August 2, 2016. AFP, Lillian Suwanrumpha

Thai Red Shirt leader back behind bars

Court rules that Jatuporn Prompan breached bail conditions by being sarcastic about the work of the country's military junta during a TV show

October 11, 2016 1:26 PM (UTC+8)

Thailand’s most prominent opposition Red Shirt leader was back behind bars on Tuesday after a court ruled that he had breached bail conditions by criticizing the junta during a television show.

The grassroots Red Shirt movement is loyal to the ousted government of Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin whose administrations were both toppled by military coups, the latest in May 2014.

Since then both Yingluck and Red Shirt leaders have been slapped with a slew of legal cases that have kept them bound up in the courts and facing lengthy jail spells.

On Tuesday morning Bangkok’s Criminal Court jailed Jatuporn Prompan, the most outspoken of the Red Shirt leaders.

In a statement the court said Jatuporn had breached bail conditions by being “sarcastic” about the work of the junta.

“The suspect went on a television program and implicated other people and caused damage to their dignity and reputation with harsh words,” the statement said.

The bail conditions stem from a separate ongoing terrorism prosecution Jatuporn faces over his role in large, sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations in 2010 that were eventually quashed by soldiers resulting in dozens of protester deaths.

Speaking to reporters before the hearing Jatuporn greeted the prospect of jail with dark humor.

“I have been imprisoned twice so if today the court revokes my bail and sends me to prison I have prepared my personal stuff, although I have only brought my sneakers, not socks,” he said.

The remark was a reference to the recent death in custody of a suspect who police said hung himself using a sock.

The military says it was forced to seize power to curb political corruption and bring much-needed stability after a decade of political turmoil between Shinawatra supporters and their opponents.

But critics say the putsch is an attempt to ensure the Shinawatras are never in power again.

The Shinawatras are adored by rural supporters in Thailand’s northeast but loathed by a military-allied elite based in Bangkok who accuse them of corruption and nepotism.

Shinawatra parties have won every poll in the past decade.

Thailand’s generals have clamped down on politics and severely curbed free expression since their 2014 power grab, jailing scores of critics of the government and monarchy — often for comments posted on social media.

Convictions under the country’s draconian royal defamation law have also surged.

Analysts say anxiety over 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s ailing health has exacerbated the past decade of political conflict, as competing elites wrestle for influence.

 

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