Court upholds life sentences for 2014 grenade attack

A soldier approaches the front of the Big C Superstore on Ratchadamri Road following the grenade attack near the anti-government rally by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee in Ratchaprasong on Feb 23, 2014. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

The Supreme Court has upheld life sentences for four people for firing a grenade at a demonstration against the Yingluck Shinawatra government on Ratchadamri Road, Bangkok, in 2014, killing three people and injuring 21 others.

The ruling was announced at the Bangkok South Criminal Court on Tuesday. The court rejected the final appeals of Taweechai Wichakham, 42, Soonthorn Phiphuannok, 52, Somsri Marit, 43, and red-shirt demonstrator Chatchawal Prabbamrung, 48.

The 40mm grenade fired from an M79 launcher hit the road in front of a Big C Superstore on Feb 23, 2014. It killed a 59-year-old woman and two children, aged four and six, who were siblings. It also injured 21 other people, nine of whom were left with disabilities.

The four were arrested in July 2014. Public prosecutors arraigned them in October 2014, charging them with premeditated murder, attempted murder, physical assault and violations to firearms and ammunition laws, and violating an executive decree on public administration in emergency situations.

The court was told they travelled in three pickup trucks to the flyover at Pratunam intersection with the intention of attacking demonstrators of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) at nearby Ratchaprasong intersection.

However, the grenade fell short and exploded in front of the Big C Superstore.

Taweechai was identified as the person who fired the grenade from a moving pickup truck as it travelled across the flyover.

In September 2015, the Criminal Court sentenced the four people to death, but commuted the sentence to life imprisonment because they gave useful testimony. The court also ordered them to pay 534,700 baht in compensation to the injured people. The Appeal Court upheld the sentences in July last year.

The Supreme Court upheld the sentences on Tuesday and dismissed the defendants’ claims they had been tortured into confessing and interrogated without the presence of a lawyer. The court ruled the claims were baseless.

From left, Soonthorn Phiphuannok, Chatchawal Prabbamrung, Taweechai Wichakham, and Somsri Marit apologise to the parents whose young children were killed by their grenade attack, at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok in July 2014. (Photo by Kosol Nakachol)

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