Former Thai PM to be charged over 2010 crackdown

Former Thai PM to be charged over 2010 crackdown

Former Thai PM to be charged over 2010 crackdown

Updated 7 December 2012, 14:00 AEST

Thai authorities plan to charge former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva with murder over his role in the 2010 military crackdown in Bangkok.

Thai authorities plan to charge former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva with murder over the death of a taxi driver who was shot by government soldiers during civil unrest in Bangkok in 2010.

The intent to charge Mr Abhisit, and former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, was announced after a meeting of Thailand's Department of Special Investigation, police and Thai prosecutors.

In September, an inquest found that taxi driver Phan Kamkong was shot and killed by Thai soldiers during political violence around anti-government Red Shirt protests in 2010.

Audio: Zoe Daniel speaks to Tracee Hutchison about the murder charge (Australia Network News)

In the first ruling related to deaths during the unrest, in which 90 people were killed in street clashes and a military crackdown.

The court found the taxi driver was killed in a volley of army bullets when he ran out of an apartment building to see what was going on after hearing gunfire.

If found guilty, the pair could face the death penalty or up to life in prison. Neither was present when the charges were read out.

Deadly crackdown

Thousands of 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.

Mr Suthep headed the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation, a crisis control centre that authorised "live fire" zones during the protest and used emergency powers to shut down websites, radio stations and a television station.

Government-backed troops forcibly dispersed the crowd on May 19, prompting rioting and arson attacks that saw over 30 buildings set ablaze in some of the worst violence in modern Thai history.

Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is now Prime Minister. Her Puea Thai Party beat Abhisit's Democrat Party in an election in July 2011 and he became leader of the opposition.

Neutrality questioned

A spokesman for Abhisit's Democrat party accused the DSI of "working at the behest of the government", saying the investigation was "completely one-sided".

On September 17, the Truth for Reconciliation Commission, set up by Abhisit's government to investigate the deadly clashes, released a 351-page report that laid blame for the deaths on the military and a shadowy group of militants dressed in black who hid among the protesters.

Some question the DSI's neutrality, accusing DSI chief Tarit Pengdith of backing Abhisit's viewpoint when he was in office, then switching emphasis after Yingluck came to power.

Abhisit and Suthep will be summoned for questioning and to hear the charges against them on December 12.

ABC/Reuters