Thai authorities yesterday charged former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva with giving orders to use live ammunition that led to civilian deaths during a military crackdown on an anti-government protest in May 2010.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI), part of the justice ministry that has a similar role to the FBI, charged Abhisit and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban for their role in the 2010 events.
“They allowed security forces to use weapons and live ammunition that led to the death of civilians,” department chief Tarit Pengdith said.
The DSI’s decision to press charges was influenced by a court ruling on Sept. 17 in the inquest into the death of taxi driver Phan Kamthong during the protests. The inquest found that troops, acting on orders from state officials, killed Phan.
The two politicians were charged under Article 288 of the Criminal Code. If found guilty, they could face the death penalty or up to life in prison. Neither was present when the charges were read out.
Thousands of protesters, supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, had taken to the streets of Bangkok in March 2010 to demand elections. More than 90 people died during the protracted protest.
Suthep headed the Center for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation, a crisis control center that authorized “live fire” zones during the protest and used emergency powers to shut down Web sites, radio stations and a television station.
Troops backed by the government forcibly dispersed the crowd on May 19, prompting rioting and arson attacks that saw more than 30 buildings set ablaze.
Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is now prime minister. Her Puea Thai Party beat Abhisit’s Democrat Party in an election in July last year and he became leader of the opposition.
“The DSI is working at the behest of the government and the investigation is completely one-sided,” said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, a Democrat party spokesman. “The DSI wants to put pressure on Suthep to admit responsibility for the 2010 deaths and we will fight back.”