Imagine a band of citizens, so impassioned by the politics of their time, that they would lay siege to an airport, the pulsating heart of a nation’s travel, commerce, and global connectivity. This is not the plot of a high-octane thriller but the actual events led by the now-defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who, in a dramatic clash of wills against the government, brought the bustling Don Mueang airport to a standstill in late 2008.
Discontent had simmered to a boiling point among the 32 members of PAD, led by the indomitable Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang. Their mission was clear and perilous – to dismantle what they perceived as a puppet regime under the Somchai Wongsawat government, beguiled by the shadow puppeteer, the then-exiled and now-jailed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
In a remarkable twist of fate, the Criminal Court yesterday delivered a ruling on this historical confrontation, acquitting these rabble-rousers of the loaded charges of insurrection. If this were a game of poker, let’s just say that justice did not have enough in the hand to call a bluff. A horde of prosecutors had brandished the sword of the law, citing a hefty toll of disruption – to the tune of 627,080 baht in damage!
The scene at Don Mueang must have been one part carnival, one part siege, with the six wounded parties – including the airport itself, the Airports of Thailand, Aerothai, Highways Department and more – limping away with the scars of the encounter. Yet, under the penetrating gaze of justice, the evidence did not hold up to the light of proof. The cries of insurrection faded into whispers; the allegations of violent assault, obstruction, and illegal detention melted away like an early morning mist.
The court noted, perhaps with a faint flicker of surprise, that these protests were as peaceful as a dove, the protestors’ hands devoid of any weaponry more threatening than the placards of discontent. But even the purest intentions can muddy the waters of the law. As such, the plot took a slight turn as thirteen among the group, including key figures like Sondhi Limthongkul and Suriyasai Katasila, were handed a bill of 20,000 baht each – a pricey ticket for the infraction of trespass and flouting the then-active emergency decree.
As the judges proclaimed their verdict, one could imagine the courtroom as a chessboard of fate. The kings and queens of the PAD walked free from the grip of insurrection charges, but pawns were sacrificed in a strategic finesse as a reminder that every action carries its weight in consequences. What will history pen down about this moment? Of revolt, of passion, or of a siege that at its beating heart, was nothing less than peaceful, yet cost a few their pockets’ peace?
Revolutions and protests are often painted with broad strokes of chaos and anarchy, but here is an intricate tale – one of fervor and intent clashing with the rule of law, leaving us to ponder upon the many shades of gray between right and might. As the dust settles on the bygone skirmish at Don Mueang, we are left to muse on the power of citizens’ voices and the delicate scales of justice, measuring the weight of allegations and truths.