Thai court grants bail to three convicted ministers ousted from Cabinet

Thai Digital Minister Puttipong Punnakanta arriving for a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Feb 24, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - A Thai court granted bail on Friday (Feb 26) to three ministers stripped this week of Cabinet posts after convictions for insurrection over anti-government protests that culminated in a 2014 military coup, their lawyer said.

The three, along with five prominent political figures, were among 26 leaders of a group, the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), who were convicted and jailed on Wednesday by Thailand's Criminal Court.

Under the Thai Constitution, the convictions cost Digital Minister Puttipong Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam their posts in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who first came to power in the 2014 coup.

The PDRC figures were convicted of insurrection, obstructing elections and invading government property during street protests opposing the government of Ms Yingluck Shinawatra, before Mr Prayut, then the army chief, overthrew her government.

The PDRC was pivotal in uniting royalist and nationalist forces to pave the way for the rise of Mr Prayut, who made himself prime minister and retained the post after a 2019 election that opposition parties said was rigged in favour of the military.

Mr Prayut's government said the process was free and fair.

However, an appeal court deemed there was no flight risk posed by the ministers, along with PDRC leader and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban and four others.

The court set bail at 800,000 baht (S$35,000) each, said lawyer Sawat Charoenpon, who is representing the group, adding that they had denied the charges and planned to appeal.

Court officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr Prayut has said he will appoint next week acting ministers for education, digital and deputy transport, before deciding on a reshuffle after talks between the ruling Palang Pracharat Party and its coalition partners.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.