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No reason to be cheerful

Posted by arnon_k On January - 3 - 2011

Grass-root members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship in the Northeast see no reason to celebrate the New Year as scores of their friends and family remain behind bars, says one red shirt member who was acquitted of arson.

Khaikhoey Chanpleng, 53, was the first UDD member to be acquitted by the court, but he said he was not happy while his friends were still in jail.

The Maha Sarakham native said he had been warned to stay away from his home because he could become an assassination target.

Lawyer Benjarat Meepien said Mr Khaikhoey was one of 10 UDD members charged with an arson attack on Maha Sarakham provincial hall.

Seven were sentenced to five years and eight months for arson. Three others, including Mr Khaikhoey, fought the charge. Mr Khaikhoey was acquitted and the other two have appealed against their sentence and are waiting for a court ruling on Jan 24.

Ms Benjarat said she expected the two to be acquitted as there were no witnesses to confirm they were at the crime scene.

Mr Khaikhoey said his acquittal on Dec 30 had not given him genuine relief.

“Apart from my worries about my [UDD] friends, I’m also concerned about my wild pig farms and the wild pig co-ops,” he said during a phone interview from an undisclosed spot.

He said he had been helping 32 friends run the pig cooperatives.

“I have been assisting them with marketing and taking care of some 10,000 wild pigs in the province. Now they have no one to rely on,” Mr Khaikhoey said.

The government has indicated it would take advice from the Truth for Reconciliation Committee in supporting bail and quickly releasing UDD suspects held for small offences for the sake of reconciliation.

However, many red shirt members continue to be refused bail and those who have received it had to put up a big surety to support their requests.

Among those who have had their bail refused are many in Ubon Ratchathani and Mukdahan. All have been detained for setting fire to the provincial halls in the provinces and other charges.

Two in Ubon Ratchathani were freed by the court on the grounds they were “abnormal” psychologically.

Kaen Nongputsa and Thongmak (surname unknown) were freed on bail after they threatened to hang themselves and tried to climb the prison wall.

They will have to appear before the court again later this month when the trial resumes. Arom Kanduang, Mr Kaen’s wife, said her husband was worried about the lawsuit.

She now had to earn a living alone, selling khaotom mad (sticky rice snack) in front of the provincial prison because her 43-year-old husband was still waiting to get back his job driving trucks.

Three other arrested Mukdahan natives have also been released on bail.

They include Arom Manjai, 16, who was allegedly assaulted by uniformed men during the May 19 arrest.

Mr Arom said he was jailed for 72 days in a juvenile ward in Nakhon Phanom on arson charges.

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