Thai Ex-PM to Be Indicted for Protest Killings

By The Associated Press 29 October 2013

BANGKOK — Prosecutors in Thailand on Monday said they will seek an indictment against a former prime minister and his deputy for their alleged roles in the deaths of demonstrators during a 2010 crackdown on anti-government protests, officials said.

The moves follow a controversy surrounding a law draft that could grant amnesty to those involved in the political conflict that marred the country for almost a decade.

Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban will be formally charged with “causing others to commit murders and attempted murders” through orders they issued to end a nine-week occupation of downtown Bangkok by anti-government protesters, Attorney General’s Office spokesman Nanthasak Poolsuk told reporters Monday.

More than 90 people, most of them protesters, were killed during the “Red Shirt” rallies, which saw tens of thousands of demonstrators camp out in the heart of Thailand’s capital to try to force Abhisit to call early elections. They were mostly made up of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Abhisit and Suthep are accused of allowing “unnecessary use of arms” by security forces during the crackdown that “led to deaths and severe injuries to the protesters and people who were nearby,” the spokesman said.

Earlier this year, a Thai court ruled that soldiers killed six protesters during the crackdown.

Suthep was in charge of the ad hoc government-run security agency set up to contain the protests.

The pair, both opposition Democrat Party lawmakers, are currently shielded from trial by parliamentary immunity while parliament is in session, but can be formally indicted once the session ends Nov. 28.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said Monday that the two are willing to fight the accusations in court.

The indictment decision, made by Attorney General Atthapon Yaisawang, marks the first prosecutions of officials for their roles in the 2010 political violence. Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s Office decided not to indict Thaksin on terrorism charges even though other Red Shirt leaders were prosecuted.

But any charges against both sides of the political divide might be voided if the parliament passes a contentious draft bill to grant a blanket amnesty to those involved with political conflict since the 2006 coup.

The draft, preliminarily approved by a House committee, has been criticized, with opponents saying it could whitewash Thaksin’s cases and pave the way for his return to Thailand. He has been in self-imposed exile to avoid serving a two-year jail term for a 2008 conflict of interest conviction.

It would also give immunity to Abhisit and Suthep for any involvement in the 2010 crackdown.