Skip to main content

The Khon Kaen Provincial Court has dismissed charges against 26 people accused of planning rebellion against the junta in 2014, but fined 18 of the defendants for violating the NCPO Order banning gatherings and sentenced 2 to jail for being in possession of an explosive.

The Khon Kaen Model defendants at the 23rd Military Circle Court in 2019 (Photo by iLaw)

The 21 defendants in what is known as the “Khon Kaen Model” case were arrested a day after the 22 May 2014 coup at an apartment in Khon Kaen. Another person was arrested at the Bank of Thailand’s Khon Kaen branch, where he worked as a security guard. They were detained at a military camp in Khon Kaen for around a week before 4 other people were arrested.

The 26 defendants were accused of being hard-core Red Shirt activists planning to rebel against the junta. The alleged planned operation would first be carried out in Khon Kaen, the second largest province in Isan and a stronghold of the red-shirt movement, followed by other provinces in the North and the Northeast.

The military also claimed that the group rented the entire floor of the apartment building for two months for their operations. However, according to The Isaan Record, building staff said they planned to stay only for a night to discuss the red-shirt response to the coup.

The 26 red shirts faced the following charges:

  1. violating the Order of the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) which prohibited gatherings of more than five people
  2. Accumulating weapons and ammunition, and conspiracy to cause terrorism
  3. Collecting weapons for planned terrorist plots
  4. Criminal association
  5. Illegal possession of weapons
  6. Illegal possession of ammunition
  7. Carrying weapons in public
  8. Unauthorized possession of weapons and ammunition
  9. Unauthorized possession of radio communication devices

Due to an NCPO Order requiring all cases involving weapons possession, national security charges, or violation of NCPO Orders to be tried in military courts, the defendants were initially indicted by a military court prosecutor at the 23rd Military Circle Court.

Most cases being tried by military courts under the NCPO were later transferred to civilian courts following an NCPO Order in July 2019.

On Thursday (30 March), the Khon Kaen Provincial Court dismissed the terrorism conspiracy charge against the group, ruling that the operation they were discussion was not a terrorist operation but only a plan to protect an elected government and protest against the coup.

The court also dismissed all charges against 2 defendants. However, it found 16 of the defendants guilty of violating the NCPO Order banning gatherings of more than five people and sentenced them to 6 months in prison and a fine of 9000 baht, but suspended the prison sentence for two years. Some of the defendants are also exempted from paying the fine since they had already spent more time in pre-trial detention than their prison sentence.

NCPO Order 3/2015 banning gatherings of more than 5 people was repealed by the 22/2018 Order. Several courts have struck down charges under the Order or dismissed the charges, ruling that the offence can no longer be prosecuted as the Order has already been repealed. However, some defendants facing charges under this Order were still found guilty.

One person was also found guilty of unauthorized possession of weapons and ammunition and carrying weapons in public. Two other people were found guilty of joining illegal gatherings and illegal possession of an explosive; one was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison and the other was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months. They were granted bail to appeal their case.

Of the 26 defendants in the case, mostly aged between 40 – 70 years old at the time of their arrest, three people have died, while two are now in exile.

Lawyer Winyat Chatmontree said that the court ruled that the defendants did not act on the plan, and so is not considered terrorism, and that there is no evidence showing that the defendants were accumulating weapons.

Winyat also said that the court found two of the defendants guilty of being in possession of an explosive based on testimony from a prosecution witness who searched a car at a hotel and found an explosive, but there are still some questions about the evidence, which he will be using to appeal the sentence.

The lawyer noted that it is still unclear how the weapons shown during a press conference about the defendants’ arrest are connected to the group. The press conference also took place after they had been detained at a military camp for a time, and it is currently unclear where these weapons are. He also said that the court ruled that not all of the weapons are connected to the defendants and not related to the first defendant, who was accused of being the mastermind behind the alleged operation plan.

The court also did not take into consideration evidence gathered while the group was being interrogated in the military camp because it was one-sided, conducted only by officials, and some of the information is contradictory.

A police officer testifying as a prosecution witness also told the court that the police did not provide the defendants with a lawyer even though they are legally required to do so as the charges carry a high penalty, including the death penalty. Nevertheless, the court still took into consideration the defendant’s testimony given during the police inquiry, even though the lawyer tried to point out that there are several inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses involved with the defendants’ arrest and that the defendants could have been threatened into testifying.

An elderly Khon Kaen Model defendant at the 23rd Military Circle Court in October 2014, while they were still held in pre-trial detention.

Winyat said that Pol Sgt Maj Prathin Chankate, one of the defendants, is a former border patrol police officer, and was working as a security officer at the Bank of Thailand’s Khon Kaen branch. He has a firearm, for which he has a permit, and a weapon given to him by the bank. The court did not confiscate Prathin’s weapons before it ruled that they are legal, but found him guilty of carrying ammunition allegedly found in a basket in front of his motorcycle. However, a photo of the motorcycle shows no basket, and Prathin was not present when the motorcycle was confiscated but the vehicle was brought to him to identify. His fingerprint and DNA were also not found on the ammunition.

Prathin was also threatened while he was detained. He told Winyat that he felt that his life was in danger, and that he was held and interrogated day and night. Others detained with Prathin also faced the same treatment. Their hands were also bound for several days, and they could not go to the bathroom unless an officer took them. They also could not eat on their own and had to be fed by officers.

Winyat raised questions as to why no recording from the bank’s CCTV cameras or photos officers claimed they took while they arrested Prathin were presented to the court, and said that he will be using these irregularities as grounds for appeal.

“Prathin’s idea was how to prevent a military coup, but when there had been a coup, what methods were there to protest it, but his method of protest was expanded into the Khon Kaen Model, that they’re going to seize the province, seize the military camp, seize the bank, seize anything, which is beyond Prathin’s capability,” Winyat said.

Winyat also said Prathin did not know some of the other defendants in the case, and so it was unreasonable to link them together. Two defendants, for whom the court dismissed all charges, were also arrested after everyone else and did not know the others. The pair were detained pending trial for 8 months before being granted bail.

Winyat said that officers claimed that one of the defendants, Kalayarak Santapan, was using his house to collect weapons and train people, but the lawyer found the house to be a normal residence next to a road and close to the village chief’s house.

“The condition of the house is normal, but behind it is a rubber plantation. The solider who went to look at it even testified that it was not suitable for any secret meetings,” said Winyat.

Meanwhile, the weapons confiscated by officers and used as evidence were brought in after the arrest, and Winyat said no forensic testing was done to find out who owned them.

Nevertheless, Winyat said that the defendants were happy to be free of the charges after 9 years of having their lives disrupted by court appointments and having to cover their travel expenses. He also felt that, as a lawyer, he has done the best he could and hoped that the charges would all be dismissed. He said that although the court still believes some evidence presented by the prosecution, he will be filing an appeal, as is normal practice for a lawyer who disagrees with the court.

Prachatai English's Logo

Prachatai English is an independent, non-profit news outlet committed to covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite pressure from the authorities. Your support will ensure that we stay a professional media source and be able to meet the challenges and deliver in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”