Thai court dismisses terrorism charges against activists for 2008 airports closure

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Thai court on Wednesday dismissed terrorism charges against 32 political activists who led an anti-government protest that shut down Bangkok’s two main international airports in 2008, their lawyer said.

Thirteen out of 32 leading members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will still have to pay a fine of 20,000 baht ($562.75) each for leading the protest that shut down Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi International Airports, their lawyer said.

“This case will set a precedent for those who love this country and want to fight for justice in the country to hold protests,” Panthep Puapongpan, one of the 32 PAD activists, told reporters after the verdict.

The state prosecutor can appeal the verdict.

The PAD blockaded the two airports for more than a week in late 2008, disrupting hundreds of flights and leaving hundreds of thousands of travelers stranded.

The PAD was formed in 2005 in opposition to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai prime minister who returned to Thailand last year from 15 years in exile after he was ousted in a 2006 coup.

In a civil case in 2017, Thailand’s Supreme Court ordered 13 PAD leaders to pay a total of $16 million in compensation to the Airports Authority of Thailand for shutting down the two airports in 2008. The case was closed after the activists were declared bankrupt.

($1 = 35.5400 baht)

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)