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The Department of Special Investigation have arrested a 46-year-old food vendor, alleging that she was part of an unknown armed group which attacked soldiers in the 2010 red-shirt protests, despite a similar charge being dismissed twice.

(Left to right: Punika Choosri and her food donation project sign said "Giving away food for free, 1 box/person, 50 boxes a day")

On 4 May, Winyat Chatmontree, a lawyer from the United Lawyers for Rights and Liberty, posted on Facebook that Punika Choosri, a 46-year-old food vendor, was arrested by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) for murder.

The DSI allege that Punika was involved in shooting and injuring soldiers during the protests by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or Red Shirts on 10 April 2010. Winyat said that the arrest warrant was requested on 7 January 2020.

Punika was arrested, detained and put on trial for murder once before in September 2014, based on allegations that she was among the ‘men in black’, an unknown group blamed by the state for several acts of violence during the UDD protests in 2009-2010. She was acquitted by the lower court in January 2017 and the appeal court in February 2020. She was detained in prison during the appeal.

The current charge claims that she was involved in an assault on Tanao Road where a soldier was shot in the buttocks. However, Winyat said that there is no evidence that Punika was there when the violence broke out. She was selling food at Ratchaprasong, another protest venue 6 km away. 

Before her latest arrest, Punika and her friends were supporting people in need in Bangkok because of the Covid-19 outbreak by donating 50 boxes of food a day .

The UDD’s main demand in 2009-2010 was the dissolution of the unelected Abhisit government, which had ruled the country since 2008 after a Constitutional Court decision had dissolved the People’s Power Party (PPP) led by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. 

The PPP was mainly composed of former members of the Thai Rak Thai Party that was itself dissolved after the 2006 coup d’état which ousted its leader, Thaksin Shinawatra. PPP voters’ dissatisfaction was stoked even more by many media reports that the military had played a large role in influencing some former Thai Rak Thai MPs to join the opposition, allowing a coalition led by Abhisit and the Democrats to take over parliament. This dissatisfaction led to mass protests in 2009, which were suppressed by the military.

Many doubts about the May 2010 crackdown remain. On the night of 10 May, mysterious messages were projected onto key locations crackdown. One of the messages, “#SeekingtheTruth” (“#ตามหาความจริง”), later trended on Twitter. 

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