Former Thai Premier Abhisit Faces Charges Over Deadly Crackdown

Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission charged former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy with malfeasance for their part in a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters in 2010.

The commission will summon Abhisit and former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban to explain why they allowed the use of military force against the protesters in April and May 2010, when more than 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed. If they are indicted they may face retroactive impeachment in the National Legislative Assembly and a five-year ban from politics.

“The two, who were political office holders and gave the policy of the action, failed to stop or review or change the measures of using military force,” NACC spokesman Vicha Mahakun told reporters Tuesday. “This behavior indicated a case of malfeasance in public office.”

Abhisit and Suthep, who was in charge of the emergency center set up to deal with the protests, authorized the military to use live ammunition to break up the demonstrations staged by the red shirts, supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thailand’s Criminal Court threw out murder and abuse of power charges against the pair in August, saying it had no authority to hear the case. The court said the NACC was the body properly placed to investigate them.

Abhisit Ready

Abhisit wrote on his official Facebook page Tuesday that he was ready to prove his innocence.

“I am ready for the investigation process and will cooperate to clarify the charges,” he wrote. “I will present all the truth to show my innocence that I have performed my duty in line with the law to return peace and happiness to the society that faced continued weapon usage and terrorism acts.”

The NACC has come under repeated criticism from the red shirts, who accuse it of bias and failing to act against parties opposed to Thaksin. The NACC last month succeeded in having former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, retroactively impeached for alleged negligence and abuse of power linked to her government’s rice purchasing policy. It is also pursuing a case against former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, a Shinawatra relative, for abuse of power in a 2008 crackdown on protests against his government.

Democrat Rise

Abhisit and his Democrat Party rose to power in a December 2008 parliamentary vote -- amid those same protests -- after a court disbanded Somchai’s party. The red shirts, still bitter over Thaksin’s ouster in a 2006 coup, took to the streets in 2009 and 2010 to call for new elections, both times leading to riots and clashes with the military.

Suthep, who has said his government had no intention of killing civilians and that protesters killed in 2010 must have “ran into” bullets, quit the party in late 2013 to lead demonstrations aimed at toppling Yingluck’s government. Those protests, which involved disrupting elections, blocking streets, barricading government buildings and calling for military intervention, ended two days before then army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha seized control of the country in a coup. Suthep is now a monk and Prayuth is prime minister.

Separately, the NACC decided Tuesday that there were no grounds to pursue corruption charges against Prayuth or his ministers for an order of overpriced microphones during a renovation of Government House. It will, however, investigate a lower-level official.

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