Monday, May 14, 2012

Karun gives up truck protest Locksmith helps police defuse arrest standoff

After locking himself inside his pickup truck for more than 24 hours to avoid arrest, Karun Sai-ngam, a core member of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), last night stepped out of his vehicle to face terrorism charges.

Former senator Karun Sai-ngam, a core member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), sits inside his locked pickup truck, which was brought to the Crime Suppression Division headquarters from his home province of Buri Ram. CSD police stopped Mr Karun in Buri Ram’s Prakhon Chai district on Saturday. Mr Karun initially refused to leave his vehicle to hear charges against him in connection with the seizure of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports in 2008.

Mr Karun didn't go easily as police tried to arrest him for his role in the PAD's seizure of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports in 2008.

He refused to leave his pickup truck even as police, who had to break through a legion of PAD supporters, loaded it onto the back of a truck in Buri Ram and took it, with him in it, to Bangkok.

The saga started at 6.30pm on Saturday when police from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) used cars to block Mr Karun's Toyota pickup truck while he was on his way home in Prakhon Chai.

The officers showed him a court warrant for his arrest for his role in the seizure of the Bangkok airports in 2008.

Mr Karun refused to get out of his vehicle and locked himself inside.

Mr Karun finally steps out of his vehicle after the police asked a locksmith to produce a key and unlock the vehicle’s door at the Crime Suppression Division Sunday. PHOTOS BY THITI WANNAMONTHA

He phoned his wife, Sukanya, who travelled to the scene to talk to police.

She asked police to allow her husband to first go home and shower as Mr Karun had just returned from his orchard in tambon Bansai in Prakhon Chai. But they denied her request.

The situation worsened when about 100 yellow-shirt PAD supporters arrived and surrounded the pickup to prevent police from arresting Mr Karun.

That prompted police from several stations in the area to send in reinforcements.

The PAD members, led by former Yasothon senator Somboon Thongburan, took turns criticising the government and Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who oversees the Royal Thai Police Office.

Four hours later, police hooked up Mr Karun's vehicle to a tow truck, but the PAD members surrounded his vehicle to prevent police from arresting him.

Police asked Mr Karun to get out of the truck to acknowledge the charges, to no avail. They negotiated with the PAD group, asking them to pass on their request to Mr Karun, for most of Saturday night.

Around 5am yesterday, more than 200 police, both uniformed and in plainclothes, led by Pol Maj Gen Rathapong Yimyai, the Buri Ram police chief, moved to break through the PAD's cordon to reach the vehicle. Clashes erupted, but there were no injuries.

Eventually, police loaded his pickup truck with Mr Karun still holed up inside on a six-wheel truck and transported it to the CSD headquarters in Bangkok, almost 400km from Buri Ram.

As soon as the six-wheel truck carrying the PAD leader's vehicle arrived at the CSD headquarters, about 50 PAD supporters showed up. They offered him food and water, but Mr Karun refused and just gave them a smile.

During the entire trip, Mr Karun kept the car's engine running so as to keep the air conditioner on.

At one point, he opened the window to say to his assembled supporters: "The truth must be proved. I want freedom."

Mr Karun, also a former senator, said he would neither step out of his truck nor sign any documents to acknowledge the charges, which he said were unlawful.

After police realised their powers of persuasion were going nowhere, CSD investigators sought a court warrant to search Mr Karun's vehicle and arrest him, CSD deputy commander Apichart Sirisit said. However, the court denied the request, saying it could not order a search warrant for a pickup truck.

The CSD deployed about 20 commandos to guard the vehicle and Mr Karun. Around 7.30pm yesterday, police brought a locksmith to open the door of the pickup truck and Mr Karun agreed to get out.

Pol Gen Somyos Phumphanmuang, chief of the investigation into the seizure of the airports in 2008, said police would today take Mr Karun to the Criminal Court to detain him, and would file terrorism and other charges against him with the court.