Thailand: Abhisit, Suthep charged in 2010 red shirt rally crackdown

Bangkok — Thai prosecutors indicted former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Monday for ordering crackdowns on the 2010 red shirt protests that left at least 92 people dead.

The indictments are based on a report compiled by the Department of Special Investigation covering the period of April 7, 2010 – May 19, 2010.

“Former prime minister Abhisit and former deputy prime minister Suthep would be tried as political overseers of the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation,” said prosecution spokesman Nantasak Poonsuk.

The crackdown led to days of street clashes between soldiers and protesters in the heart of Bangkok.

The red shirt demonstrations attempted to oust the Democratic Party-led government led by Mr. Abhisit, and ended on May 19, 2010 when authorities ordered the military to storm the rally area occupied by the protesters for nearly two months.

The rally was broken up when red shirt leaders announced that the rally would end as soldiers made their way to the main stage area. Demonstrators and soldiers were killed in the clashes and dozens of buildings burned in Bangkok and other provinces.

Democratic Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said Mr. Abhisit and Mr. Suthep will fight in court to prove their innocence and will not seek amnesty to clear themselves of the allegations, and that they are ready to accept punishment if the court found them guilty, according to Thai media reports.

He also said their opposition to the blanket amnesty proposed by the Pheu Thai Party remains unchanged.

The decision to indict the two was welcomed by human rights groups.

“This is unprecedented,” said Sunai Phasuk, Thailand representative Human Rights Watch. “This is the first time a Thai prime minister has been indicted for a crackdown.”

The indictment comes as the Pheu Thai-led government pushes for a broad amnesty for everyone involved in the political chaos that has ensued since the 2006 coup that overthrew former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said Monday he strongly opposes amnesty for himself and that soldiers were also victims in the 2010 chaos because they too were shot and killed in the clashes.

“Don’t give me an amnesty. I will fight the case,” he said, adding that his personal views did not necessarily reflect the position of other soldiers involved.

Ex-military “men in black” were accused of attacking the soldiers with bullets and grenades in April and May 2010, leading to deaths and injuries among the troops.