2 red shirts acquitted of 2010 arson

The Appeals Court has upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss arson charges against two red-shirt guards allegedly in connection with the May 19, 2010 fire at CentralWorld and Zen department store at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok.

The two red-shirt defendants, Saichol Pae Bua, 32, and Pinit Jannarong, 30, were indicted by public prosecutors on Sept 1, 2010 for involvement in setting the shopping centre ablaze during riots after the military moved in to disperse red-shirt demonstrators. The men denied the charges.

The Criminal Court dismissed the case filed against them on March 25 last year, stating the plaintiff had presented insufficient evidence. 

The Appeal Court judges on Thursday agreed with the lower court’s decision. The judges reasoned that the plaintiff’s evidence did not carry enough weight to convince them that the defendants had committed the crime. Therefore, they should be given the benefit of the doubt and be acquitted. 

Winyat Chartmontree, the lawyer for the two men, said after the court’s ruling that none of the prosecution's witnesses could confirm the presence of Mr Saichol at the shopping mall when the fire broke out. He said all of the evidence presented by the prosecutors was very weak.

Mr Saichol was captured by security camera footage holding a fire extinguisher while walking into CentralWorld. But prosecutors could not prove he had committed arson or that the extinguisher had been used in setting the fire, he said.

Mr Winyat said he would wait to see if the prosecutors appeal to the Supreme Court. 

Mr Saichol was sentenced by the Criminal Court to nine months in prison for breaching the emergency decree during the 2010 political unrest, while Mr Pinit was given a six-month jail term for the same offence. Both have completed their prison terms. 

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