Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva faces murder charges for his role in responding to protests in 2010, in the first case that aims to hold government leaders accountable for the deaths of demonstrators.
The Department of Special Investigation, prosecutors and police said in a statement yesterday that Abhisit and former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban authorized soldiers to use weapons to crack down on demonstrators. Abhisit leads the opposition after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose party backed the protests calling for an election, won a parliamentary majority in a nationwide vote last year.
“Both of them issued a written order for soldiers with weapons to fight with the demonstrators,” said Tharit Pengdit, who heads the DSI, an agency under the Justice Ministry. “There were documents that indicated Abhisit’s orders. Several actions of those two persons led to the loss of lives.”
The move comes as Yingluck’s party considers how to proceed with changing the constitution to give more power to politicians, a move opposed by those who backed the 2006 coup against her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Abhisit’s party said the charges were aimed at forcing the opposition to accept a broad amnesty bill that would include Thaksin, who has lived overseas after fleeing a jail sentence that he says is politically motivated.
Abhisit and Suthep are ready to fight any charges and the party still opposes the amnesty bill, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, a spokesman for the Democrat Party, said in an e-mailed statement.
“The DSI’s latest move is politically motivated,” he said. “The charges against Abhisit and Suthep are another attempt by the government in abusing its power against the opposition. There was no order for the soldiers to kill any innocent civilians.”
More than 90 people were killed in the protests in 2010. Demonstrators known as the Red Shirts wanted Abhisit to call an election after he took power in a 2008 parliamentary vote that followed the dissolution of the pro-Thaksin ruling party because of rules written after the coup.