Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy heard murder charges against them for their role in quelling political protests that claimed about 90 lives in 2010.
Abhisit and former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban appeared at the Department of Special Investigation, an agency under the Justice Ministry, as their opponents played songs about the military crackdown. The DSI, prosecutors and police last week said Abhisit and Suthep authorized soldiers to use weapons to disperse demonstrators backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who were calling for an election.
“What you see is politically motivated,” Abhisit told reporters in Bangkok yesterday after hearing the charges. “I am absolutely confident in our innocence. We never had an intention to kill people,” he said, describing the case against him as “inconsistent and contradictory.”
The charges come 17 months after the party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, won the first election after the violence. Abhisit denies wrongdoing and has said the case is aimed at forcing the opposition to accept a broad amnesty bill that would include Thaksin, who has lived overseas since fleeing a jail sentence stemming from charges filed by an army-appointed body after his ouster in a 2006 coup.
“If the court rules that I am guilty with a death sentence, I am ready for that because I want to protect the law,” Abhisit told supporters earlier yesterday. “And if I am executed, I want those who deserve a jail term to come back to face it so the nation can move forward,” he said, referring to Thaksin.
A Bangkok court ruled in September that soldiers shot and killed protester Phan Khamkong on May 14, 2010, the same day Abhisit’s government authorized live fire zones around the demonstration site. Phan’s death would fall outside the parameters of bills under consideration in Parliament that would grant amnesty for a broad range of political offenses from Sept. 15, 2005 to May 10, 2011.
Abhisit and Suthep won’t be detained, DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit said today at a media briefing.
“We don’t take political sides and we don’t play politics,” Tharit said. “We just do our job.”
The DSI and police have found strong evidence that soldiers were implicated in at least 36 of 92 deaths, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in September. While government forces were responsible for most of the deaths and injuries, heavily armed elements among the protesters also held some culpability, the group said in calling for all those responsible to face prosecution.
Tharit said 62 cases involving 295 people who were among the protesters in 2010 are being dealt with by the courts. Cases related to 34 deaths that have been attributed to government forces are just beginning, he said.
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