Picture this: The year is 2008, and Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport is swarmed with a formidable crowd, not of tourists or business travelers, but of passionate protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). This wasn’t your average sit-in; this historical battle of wills was about to take a turn that would echo through the halls of Thailand’s Criminal Court nearly a decade later.
The PAD, a group now a whisper from the past, stood united and strong, with the unwavering Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang at the helm, alongside the spirited 32. They were on a mission, one that stemmed from deep political roots, aspiring to pull out the supposed puppets that they believed were being danced around by the strings of the exiled – and now jailed – former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Their modus operandi? A siege, a blockade of Bangkok’s aerial gateway from November 24 to December 3. The repercussions? An airport standstill with a hefty price tag of 627,080 baht in damages, a figure meticulously tallied by the prosecutors.
The defendants, including key figures like the media savvy Sondhi Limthongkul and the tactical Pibhop Dhongchai, became representatives of a larger cause. The fervor of the protest rippled out to touch many, including the esteemed entities of Thai Airways, Highways Department, Aerothai, and even the postal services.
Fast forward to the hushed courtroom proceedings that would decide the fate of these 32 individuals. The air was thick with anticipation as judgments were poised to be delivered. The charges? Insurrection. The potential for a tumultuous outcome was palpable. And yet, amidst the silence, the verdict resounded, clear as the ring of a temple bell—acquittal.
The defense: the protests were as peaceful as a Buddhist monastery. Not a single blade amongst them, their armament nothing but sheer conviction. However, even the most peaceful warriors can overstep boundaries, as 13 of the group learned. The charge: trespassing and breaching the emergency decree, a gavel-drop that came with a price tag – 20,000 baht.
In this unexpected twist, these thirteen, including powerhouses like the strategic Somsak Kosaisuk and the wizened Sirichai Mai-ngam, had to dig into their wallets. But even this minor sting couldn’t overshadow the major victory. As the reverberations of footsteps faded down the courtroom halls, one thing was crystal clear—the indefatigable spirit of the PAD lived on, their protests not in vain, their voices once reverberated through the walls of Don Mueang, still ringing with the triumph of a battle won.
And so ends our tale, not just a snippet of political history but an epic saga of determination, proving once again that the heart of protest beats strong in the Land of Smiles – peaceful, but steady and persistent, capable of shifting the tides without lifting a sword.