BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai court jailed a firebrand leader of the country’s “red shirt” movement on Wednesday for his role in a 2008 attack on rival political demonstrators but immediately released him on bail pending an appeal.
Kwanchai Praipana, formerly the leader of the red shirts in their northeastern stronghold, also faces charges of terrorism in a separate case over his role in the arson and rioting that erupted in May last year after a bloody crackdown by troops on red shirt demonstrators.
He was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday and fined 350,000 baht ($11,100) for the July 2008 attack on rival “yellow shirt” protesters, but the term was cut to 32 months after he confessed to assault, causing serious bodily harm and destroying public property.
Kwanchai appealed against the ruling and was freed on bail, an official at the Udon Thani court said by telephone.
He is a staunch ally of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the self-exiled red shirt figurehead at the heart of a protracted political crisis and elder brother of current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Kwanchai was an influential radio host and hardcore red shirt who led marches across Bangkok that descended into clashes with the military that left 91 people dead and 1,800 wounded in what was Thailand’s worst political violence in decades.
He was among seven red shirt leaders charged with terrorism who were released on bail in February after serving nine months in prison. Thaksin, who lives in exile in Dubai, is also wanted on terrorism charges and is accused of inciting violence.
In another case on Wednesday, the same court released on bail another prominent red shirt leader, Arisman Pongruengrong, a popular singer charged with terrorism, invading parliament and theft of military ammunition.
He surrendered to police on December 7 after spending the past year in hiding in Cambodia.
He was initially denied bail, but the court released him after he pledged a bond of six million baht of his assets. ($1 = 31.43 baht)
Reporting by Natnicha Chuwiruch; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould