'Red shirt' supporters acquitted of arson in 2010 Bangkok mall fire

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 2:35am


Two supporters of Thailand's "red shirt" protest movement were acquitted yesterday of setting fire to a shopping mall during mass anti-government rallies that rocked Bangkok in 2010.

A court in Bangkok freed the pair because there were no witnesses to the arson attack on Central World, Thailand's biggest shopping mall, which was gutted by the blaze.

Saichon Paebua - one of the "red shirt" security guards - and co-defendant Pinit Chanarong both denied that Central World was one of dozens of buildings torched after a crackdown by armed troops firing live rounds and backed by armoured vehicles that brought an end to the two months of demonstrations on May 19, 2010.

The "red shirts" - broadly loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - have denied responsibility for the fire.

The two defendants were freed as they had already served jail terms for violating an emergency decree imposed to deal with the protests, which paralysed parts of Bangkok.

Two teenagers were cleared of involvement in the arson attack by a juvenile court in December due to a lack of witnesses.

About 90 people were killed and nearly 1,900 were wounded in a series of street clashes between demonstrators and security forces during the rallies.

The trial of 24 "red shirt" leaders on terrorism charges began in December, but five of them enjoy immunity as they are now lawmakers, so the case is expected to take years to complete.