BANGKOK • Two Thai men were each jailed for more than 40 years yesterday for throwing a grenade at a crowd during street protests that eventually led to last year's military takeover.
The attack on March 7 last year caused no deaths or injuries but was one of a number of tit-for-tat assaults during months of often violent protests that left at least 28 people dead and hundreds injured.
The trial was held at Bangkok's Criminal Court. The two men belonged to the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship - the official name of the "red shirt" movement loyal to ousted premiers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra, who are siblings.
At the time, Ms Yingluck's democratically elected administration was paralysed by protesters, many of whom were calling for and welcomed the eventual military coup.
Sentencing the two men yesterday, a judge said "witnesses gave concrete evidence" against the pair, but their life sentences had been reduced to 43 years and four months because they "confessed during their interrogations".
Charges against them included possession of unregistered wea-pons and premeditated attempted murder. The grenade was aimed at anti-government protesters near the famous Chatuchak market.
Last year's protests were part of Thailand's long-running political conflict that broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite, backed by parts of the military and judiciary, against rural and working-class voters loyal to the Shinawatra clan. Both sides experienced casualties, often caused by lightning grenade attacks and drive-by shootings.
The unrest and inability of Ms Yingluck's government to function led to army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha instigating a coup, the second military takeover in under a decade. The military said the coup was necessary to restore order and end the cycle of violent street protests.
Since seizing power, Thailand's generals have largely succeeded in curbing public dissent by curbing basic rights. While Gen Prayut, now Prime Minister, has promised a return to democracy, an election date has repeatedly slipped. Critics say the coup was a move by the elite to grab power and prevent democracy from taking root in the kingdom.