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Thailand: Military Hospital Bomber Faces 31 Years in Prison

Wilawan Watcharasakwet
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Watana Pumret is escorted by officials as he arrives at police headquarters for a press conference, following his arrest on charges that he bombed the Phra Mongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok, June 20, 2017.

A retired engineer who admitted to setting off a pipe bomb that injured 21 people at a Bangkok military hospital on the third anniversary of Thailand’s latest military coup is to spend 31 years in prison, after a court convicted and sentenced him on Wednesday.

Watana Pumret, 62, confessed to planting a bomb packed with nails that exploded on May 22 near Phra Mongkutklao Hospital’s Wongsuwan Room, which was established as a tribute to Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, the current deputy prime minister. The blast struck an area frequented by military officials.

Wednesday’s verdict and sentencing covered all charges against Watana.

“Punishment will be for every act – life imprisonment for the explosion causing serious injuries, three years imprisonment for assembling a device that exploded, one year imprisonment for possession of explosive devices without permission and a fine of 1,000 baht (U.S. $30.65) for bringing an explosive device into a public place without permission,” the court ruled. “The defendant confessed, the penalty is reduced to half.”

The total penalty is a 27-year sentence and a 500 baht ($15.33) fine. These are added to a four-year sentence and 975 baht ($30) fine following Watana’s conviction on related charges in September.

Watana, supported by his wife and relatives, signed a form accepting the verdict. The couple hugged before he was taken off to prison.

Leaving the courtroom, Watana ignored reporters who asked if he would appeal the verdict.

In June, authorities announced that the retired engineer had confessed to setting off the bomb.

Watana said he acted alone because he despised the military-controlled government headed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the Bangkok Post reported. He said he did not want to hurt anyone, but wanted to make a statement against the government.

On May 22, 2014, Prayuth, then an army general, led a coup that toppled the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. He became Thailand’s 29th prime minister and appointed Prawit to two ministerial posts.

Thailand has been rocked by at least nine successful coups since 1932.

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