Thai court grants bail to three convicted ministers ousted from cabinet

FILE PHOTO: Thailand’s Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan gestures while wearing a face mask as anti-government protesters and students attend a demonstration demanding the government to resign, in front of the Ministry of Education in Bangkok, Thailand September 5, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Thai court granted bail on Friday 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, and 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 Prayuth Chan-ocha, 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 Yingluck Shinawatra, before Prayuth, 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 Prayuth, who made himself prime minister and retained the post after a 2019 election that opposition parties say was rigged in favour of the military. Prayuth’s government says 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 ($26,368) each, Sawat Charoenpon, a lawyer representing the group, told reporters, adding that they had denied the charges and planned to appeal.

Court officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prayuth 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.

($1=30.3400 baht)

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Ed Davies and Clarence Fernandez