Black-clad militia not involved in CentralWorld arson: DSI

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BANGKOK, July 10 — The unidentified black-clad militia was not involved in the 2010 arson and theft at the capital’s CentralWorld Department Store in Ratchaprasong, according to Tarit Pengdit, director- general of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

The fire and the theft caused damages of over Bt8 billion.

Being responsible for the investigation of the case, he said the proceedings are divided into two parts — arson and theft. The case is still under court procedures, but some defendants have already served their punishments from some of the rulings.

Regarding prosecutions for theft, nine suspects aged 17-45 were arrested with stolen items, and were sent for investigation at Patumwan Police Station.

Concerning arson, arrest warrants were issued by the same police station to another nine suspects, of whom five have remained unidentified.

The DSI director-general noted whether or not CentralWorld would be compensated by insurance companies, the case must focus on terrorism issues first in order to see if further conditions apply.

The insurance companies claim they cannot yet pay compensation, for the terrorism issues are still in court proceedings. They might have to compensate the department store if the court rules that the arson and the theft were not motivated by terrorism, Mr Tarit commented.

Terrorism issues filed to the court regarding CentralWorld were focused on key Red Shirt leaders, not the black-clad militia, he said, while noting that the motivation of the arson did not clearly indicate that it aimed at robbery.

He said that the unidentified black-clad group was mentioned only in regard to terrorism cases, not to arson or other crimes elsewhere.

CentralWorld, Thailand’s largest shopping complex and the second largest in Southeast Asia, was set afire by alleged Red Shirt protesters after their leaders surrendered to police on May 19, 2010 as troops after a half-day of violence and the military closing in on Ratchaprasong intersection where the demonstrators had encamped since early April.

The complex was closed after the fire, but reopened for shoppers in September the same year, except for Zen Department Store, a portion of the CentralWorld’s premises which collapsed after being engulfed in flames for eight hours. Zen was opened last year.