Jatuporn Prompan receives flowers from his supporters after being released from Bangkok Remand Prison on Saturday morning. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Jatuporn Prompan, a former leader of the red shirts, has been released from jail after serving one year and 15 days for defaming former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The former chairman of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) left Bangkok Remand Prison at 6.40am. He was greeted by a large crowd of supporters including red-shirt co-leaders Nattawut Saikuar, Tida Tawornseth, Korkaew Pikulthong, Worachai Hema and Yoswarit Chuklom.
Asked about the current political situation, Mr Jatuporn said all sides should join hands in finding a way out of the cycle of coups and disputed elections. “Let’s fix it before there is bloodshed. Don’t let there be bloodshed before fixing it.”
Jatuporn, 53, who shed 30kg while serving time, said he wanted to see the country move forward.
“We’ll talk to find a way out for the country. We’ve never said we did everything right. But whether right or wrong, they serve as lessons in certain situations. Anyone with political experience should know what will happen if we continue on this path.
“Don’t let history repeat itself. It teaches us about what brings the country back to crisis mode. We shouldn’t keep doing the same,” he continued.
“For 85 years, there have been elections and coups. Politicians and usurpers have taken turns to take power. But only the group whose people die remains the same.”
Asked whether he met Sondhi Limthongkul, a former leader of People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), and the former Phra Buddha Isara, a co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Jatuporn said he had met both.
“A prison is a place for forgiveness and we kept an open mind in discussing issues that would benefit the country in the future,” he said.
His wife had said earlier that Jatuporn was on good terms with both men and that they had talked a lot while in prison.
Jatuporn said he would meet his supporters at Imperial Ladprao Mall to resume what he had left unfinished.
The Supreme Court sentenced Jatuporn to one year and 15 days in jail in July last year for defaming Mr Abhisit during a speech he gave at a red-shirt protest nine years ago.
Mr Abhisit filed a defamation suit in June 2009, accusing Jatuporn of defaming him when he told red-shirt protesters on May 10 of the same year that Mr Abhisit had ordered soldiers to shoot people and called him a murderer.
Jatuporn denied the charge.
The PAD and PDRC are ultraroyalist right-wing movements active between 2005 and 2008 and from 2013 to 2014 respectively. Their goals were to eradicate former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s influence over Thai politics.
Many of the red shirts are supporters of the fugitive former prime minister. The clashes of ideology between the two sides has polarised Thai society and crippled national development for more than a decade.