July 5, 2009 / 8:07 AM / 10 years ago

Police to question Thai "yellow shirts" over airport siege

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Leaders and key supporters of Thailand’s “yellow shirts” movement, including the current Foreign Minister, have been summoned for questioning over last year’s blockade of Bangkok’s airports, police said on Sunday.

Sondhi Limthongkul, founder of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), speaks during a news conference at his Manager Group office in Bangkok in this May 3, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul, retired general Chamlong Srimuang and Somsak Kosaisuk, leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, were among those asked to report to police by July 16.

“We have issued a summons for two airport incidents,” assistant police chief Lieutenant General Wut Puawes told Reuters on Sunday.

The Nov. 26-Dec. 3 airport siege — which the PAD called its “final battle” to unseat the People’s Power Party (PPP) government — stranded more than 230,000 travellers, disrupted trade flows and caused massive damage to Thailand’s vital tourism industry.

Sondhi, Chamlong and Somsak, the leader of the New Politics Party, the PAD’s newly-formed political arm, face charges of criminal offences relating to the airport occupation, the most serious carrying the death penalty, local media reported.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told local television late on Saturday that Kasit would report to authorities, but his political future had not yet been discussed.

“If charges are filed against him in court, we may have to take a look at that,” said Abhisit, who took office last December after the court dissolution of the PPP, which prompted the PAD to end its airport blockade.

Abhisit, whose Democrats head a fragile six-party coalition, gave the cabinet position to Kasit, a former Thai ambassador to the United States. Kasit has refused to step down over his role as a speaker at the PAD’s protests.

The PAD, or “yellow shirts”, are a motley group of academics, businessmen, royalists and urban middle-class activists opposed to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the political parties he has backed from exile.

They led street protests to oust Thaksin in 2005 and 2006 and regrouped in 2008 to topple his PPP party by occupying Government House for three months and shutting down the $4 billion Suvarnabhumi airport and domestic Don Muang terminal.

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