Van operators fined in Yingluck case

'Slapped on wrist' for ferrying supporters

The drivers who brought the crowds to the Supreme Court at least week's hearing of the Yingluck trial have been fined for operating off their designated routes. (FB/YShinawatra)

Three van operators whose vehicles were used to transport supporters of ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to the Supreme Court last Tuesday for her rice scheme trial were fined 5,000 baht to 15,000 baht on Tuesday by the Criminal Court.

The police said 21 vans were involved in ferrying the supporters that day: four that operate regular routes and 17 chartered vehicles.

Those that deviated from their regular routes could face up to one year in prison and a fine of 20,000 baht for violating Section 27 of the Land Transport Act by not requesting official permission to reroute, the police said.

As such, they suggested the court's decision to hit two of the regular-route van operators with fines of just 5,000 baht represented a slap on the wrist. The third driver has yet to report to the police and the fate of the fourth remains unclear.

The 17 chartered vehicle operators were in breach of Section 32 of the same act for operating without a chartered contract and could face maximum fines of 50,000 baht each, the police said.

The third driver fined Tuesday, who belonged in this second category, was ordered to pay 15,000 baht, according to Chonnakan Prommun, president of a local van association. It was unclear why his fine was higher than those of the other defendants.

Appealing for understanding on behalf of the operators, Mr Chonnakan said many were only informed the court was their destination that day.

One van operator, who declined to be named, told police he would have refused his passengers' request if he was aware it had been in violation of the law.

Many van operators refused calls to take people back to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions several days later on Friday to hear Ms Yingluck's closing statement, Mr Chonnakan said.

Thawee Singsart, one of the 21 operators, said he had been misled after he rented out his van to a person claiming he wanted to pay his respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose body is lying in state in Bangkok.

Mr Chonnakan said he took 10 of the van operators to acknowledge the charges against them at Thung Song Hong police station on Monday.

Police said they will issue a second summons for those who failed to show. If they do not report within the next seven days arrest warrants will be sought, officers said.

Army commander Chalermchai Sitthisad suggested in earlier comments the punishments were not being meted out to scare off Ms Yingluck's supporters.

"If they gather to sincerely show moral support for Ms Yingluck, there is no problem," he said.

"But if their assembly aims to incite pubic chaos, their actions will be deemed improper and will be prohibited," he added.

The court's ruling on the case is scheduled for Aug 25.

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