The People’s Alliance for Democracy held rallies at Bangkok’s airports to pressure a corrupt government, but did not close them, Sondhi Limthongkul insisted to the court.
On 1 Dec, Sondhi gave his final testimony to the Civil Court in a lawsuit filed against him and 12 other yellow-shirt leaders by the Airports of Thailand for laying siege to Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Nov 2008, demanding 245 million baht in damages.
Sondhi told the court that, before the seizures, the 5 PAD leaders had discussions and Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, the most senior among them, decided to lead protesters to the airports to protest against the government which was considering approval of an NGV bus project, and to pressure it to make progress in the cases of M79 bombings which had killed many yellow shirts.
In the PAD leaders’ view, the protests at the airports did not harm the aviation business, because the airports were not closed, and airplanes were allowed to take off or land as normal. The protesters gathered in the area called the ‘land side’, which had nothing to do with the taking off or landing of airplanes, and the leaders instructed protestors not to enter the ‘air side’, as they realized that encroachment into that area was against the law, Sondhi said.
Furthermore, the protesters allowed any persons to freely enter or leave the premises of both airports. The PAD even helped negotiate for the Muslims to travel to Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimages, he said.
He said that it was Director of the AOT Serirat Prasutanond who ordered the closure of the airports. He had no idea whether Serirat’s orders were in line with the International Civilian Aviation Convention or not, but he knew that the board of the AOT reprimanded Serirat for giving the orders without notifying them beforehand.
The rallies of PAD supporters at the airports did not cause any serious damage which would need large amounts of compensation. Only the toilets got dirty. When the airports were handed back to the AOT, the board even said that the airports were ready to go back into service, Sondhi said.
The court will give its ruling on 25 March 2011.