Red shirt leader Arisman goes to trial in Pattaya

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The trial of “red shirt” leader Arisman Pongruangrong has begun in Pattaya with the former fugitive anti-government protestor claiming he didn’t invade the 2009 ASEAN summit’s host hotel, but went there only to maintain peace.

Arisman, co-leader of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, and his lawyer appeared at Pattaya Provincial Court Sept. 10 to review documents and witness lists covering charges he conspired to force the cancellation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in April 2009 at the Royal Cliff Grand Hotel.

Arisman Pongruangrong arrives at Pattaya Provincial Court. Arisman Pongruangrong arrives at Pattaya Provincial Court.

The incident, which prompted the evacuation of world leaders via helicopter, was the first salvo in the red shirts’ bloody two-year campaign against the Democratic Party-led government that ended with the death of 92 people in a Bangkok shopping district in May 2010.

Arisman, who originally surrendered to the court in December, is also charged in five other violent incidents, including the siege of and trespass on Parliament grounds; the raid at the ThaiCom satellite uplink station; involvement in terrorism; the theft of anti-riot weapons; and the use of force to resist arrest at the SC Park Hotel in Bangkok. He fled Thailand following the dispersal of the crowd at the Ratchaprasong rally site in May 2010 and reportedly sought and received safe haven in Cambodia.

Arisman told reporters last week that he has showed up for all Pattaya court appointments and fully welcomes facing the charges.

He denied there was any conspiracy to breach police barriers and storm the hotel. He said security camera footage will prove he and other red shirt leaders told protestors not to damage the hotel property, not burn the hotel and not harm guests.

Arisman maintains he went into the Royal Cliff to suppress the protest and maintain peace.